Indonesia's first high-speed railway handles 1m passenger trips, unleashing new opportunities

JAKARTA: The Jakarta-Bandung High-Speed Railway (HSR), the first HSR in Indonesia and Southeast Asia, has handled over 1 million passenger trips since its official operation on Oct 17, China State Railway Group Co said on Monday.

With the yearend approaching, Halim Station in Jakarta has become increasingly crowded with passengers taking the high-speed train, locally known as "Whoosh", for their vacation or family reunions in Bandung, West Java.

The rapidly rising passenger flows have prompted PT Kereta Cepat Indonesia-China (KCIC), a joint venture consortium between Indonesian and Chinese firms that constructs and runs the HSR, to increase the train services to 48 trips per day from the previous 14.

With a design speed of 350 km per hour, the HSR connects Jakarta's Halim station to Tegalluar station in the fourth largest city Bandung, shortening the journey from over three hours to about 40 minutes.

The railway, the first overseas high-speed railway project that fully uses Chinese railway systems, technology and industrial components, has made Bandung easily accessible from Jakarta, offering more choices for travellers, commuters, and families living apart, as well as boosting local tourism and unleashing new opportunities.



It was Anashtasyah Kaetlyn's third trip with Whoosh, which she said has now become her favourite transportation. As a Bandung resident who works in Jakarta, she returns to Bandung every weekend.

"Since this train started operating, I always take it for my trip home, because it is very fast and time-efficient. I don't like long trips," she told Xinhua. She usually gets off at Padalarang Station in West Bandung Regency, and it takes her another 10 minutes home by motorcycle or taxi.

Working in Jakarta with his family living in Bandung, West Java province, 36-year-old Bagus Ahli Ramadhan has recently cancelled the plan to move his pregnant wife to live in Jakarta thanks to the high-speed train.

"I usually go back to Bandung once every two weeks to visit my wife, but now the HSR has made it easier. After office hours I can go to Bandung, which only takes 46 minutes, then in the morning I would return to Jakarta before office hours. That's amazing," said Ramadhan.

Bandung also became a new choice for 49-year-old Enny Nuraeni to spend the weekend to escape from busy Jakarta. Previously, she rarely went to Bandung for vacation because going there cost her too much time. "The trip by train or car was exhausting. We would have been tired even before arriving in Bandung," she said.

Dzulfikar Muhammad Aziz, 29, also took a vacation in Bandung. He said Halim Station, where he starts his trip, is "very decent, spacious, clean and comfortable."  "For a station, it is very big. Looks more like an airport. But with more affordable food stands," Aziz said.



Desy Setiawati, 24, felt her life has changed when she was chosen from thousands of applicants to become one of the first train attendants on the HSR. "This is what my family and I are most proud of in 2023," she said.

After two months of systematic theoretical training and practical operation on the train, she took up her post and began a new career as a high-speed rail attendant.

"I remember once helping a passenger in a wheelchair. With specially designed toilet on the train, the passenger said he felt he was taken good care of," she said, adding that such moments make the most unforgettable experiences in her career.

The behind-the-scenes train technicians also take great pride in their work. Galang Swandaru, a 27-year-old civil engineering graduate, became a quality-control engineer at the high-speed railway project department of China Tiesiju Civil Engineering Group after taking one-on-one training lessons with his Chinese teacher.

"There are many young Indonesian technicians like me on the railway who have learned professional skills from Chinese teachers as well as from working on-site," said Swandaru.

Apart from cultivating young talents, project departments prioritise hiring nearby villagers, for whom they also organise specific training like welding, forklifting and hoisting operations.

KCIC data shows that 45,000 Indonesian employees were trained on-site during the railway's construction, and the project has created about 51,000 jobs in Indonesia.



Passengers like Nuraeni and Aziz also discovered another benefit of taking the high-speed train – the ticket offers free entry to a number of famous tourism destinations in Lembang, a city in West Bandung Regency that houses several tourist attractions, including Floating Market Lembang, Dusun Bambu, and Farmhouse.

According to Whoosh operator KCIC, the promotion, which began in October, aims to offer bonuses for passengers and boost local tourism.

"The HSR ticket is well worth it," Aziz said. "There is also free shuttle bus service which we can take at the Padalarang station after getting off the HSR to the tourist destinations."

According to Ridwan Kamil, former governor of West Java province, the Jakarta-Bandung HSR improves transportation and holds immense potential for creating new opportunities.

He believes the HSR will catalyse transit-oriented development, leading to an emerging new economy and more employment opportunities.

"We are designing a master plan for a new city with more buildings around the high-speed railway stations," said Kamil. "With new infrastructure being built and more investment coming, an increase of job opportunities will be given to the younger generations of West Java," Kamil said.

Garibaldy Thohir, chairman of the China Committee of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, is bullish on the potential of Whoosh, saying it is a combination of "very friendly service from Indonesian people with very good Chinese technology", which makes it very attractive.

"I see economic improvement, at least in Bandung-West Java, which has quite good impacts," he said. - Bernama



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