September 24, 2015 1:14 am JST
Japan vs. China

Indonesia's high-speed rail project back on track

JAKARTA -- Indonesia has decided to move forward with its high-speed rail project, according to a government announcement Wednesday, an about-face from a decision earlier this month to scrap it.

     "We are able to continue since certain conditions have been met," said Darmin Nasution, Indonesia's coordinating minister for the economy. However, he remains adamant that Indonesia will not use government budget money or offer government loan guarantees. The bullet train will connect the capital city of Jakarta to Bandung, a 140km stretch.

     Nasution met with reporters Wednesday after a talk with Yasuaki Tanizaki, Japan's ambassador to Indonesia. "We need to revise the operational expenses, the speeds, the number of stations, and the technologies used so that state-run enterprises can cover the costs," said Nasution.    

     Both Japan and China had been lobbying Indonesia to build the high-speed rail. Japan cooperated with Indonesia for many years on the rail project, including conducting feasibility studies. But after Joko Widodo became president in October 2014, the government said it would stop giving Japan preferential treatment.

     The Chinese side had stepped up its lobbying efforts since March, courting Jakarta with lenient financing conditions and short construction times. The Indonesian government was supposed to make a decision between the two at the end of August.

     However, Nasution announced Sept. 3 that the government would abandon the project, adopting neither side's proposal. But he also mentioned at that time that Indonesia was open to a "medium-speed" train with top speeds no more than roughly 200km per hour, leaving the door open for future bids. Tanizaki said he is unable to give any details about what was discussed at Wednesday's meeting with Nasution, including how fast the trains will go.

(Nikkei)

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