Indonesia: High-speed rail expensive, destructive: Observers

Anton Hermansyah, thejakartapost.com 6 Feb 16;

Given the multitude of cheaper and environmentally friendlier rail links that could be built between Jakarta and Bandung, experts have criticized the government’s decision to build a Chinese-sponsored high-speed railway, saying it is too expensive and risks destroying natural water reserves.

The cost of the project stands at around Rp 78 trillion, with passenger projection of only 29,000 people per day, according to Gadjah Mada University transportation researcher Danang Parikesit.

“Let’s say we built a medium-speed rail link there, with improvements such as a straighter line and signal upgrades. The average speed could be increased from the current 60 kilometers per hour to 120. The cost would be only around Rp 7 trillion,” Danang told thejakartapost.com on Friday.

The mass rapid transit (MRT) system currently underway, he pointed out, was also overpriced at Rp 16 trillion, with a capacity of 100,000 to 120,000 passengers per day. At a length of 16 km, the cost per km is one trillion rupiah.

“But with Rp 16 trillion, we could build 300 km of bus lines. The high-speed rail and MRT projects are both too expensive,” Danang said.

Meanwhile, Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) executive director Abetnego Tarigan said the Jakarta-Bandung rail project had the potential to degrade the environment, as it would reduce water absorption along the lengths of its track.

“The [project] is likely to violate the spatial law. Railway projects should help rather than degrade the environment,” he said on Friday as quoted by Antara news agency.

The watershed area, he continued, could be narrowed in the area of the project, thus disrupting the water supply for tea plantations in the nearby Walini area. As such, the project would benefit only the wealthy.

Besides environment degradation, the high-speed rail project would lead to land being converted from vegetative to industrial and residential land, as had happened on the north coast of Java, especially in areas around Karawang district and western Bandung, Abetnego said. (cal/ags)
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