China, Indonesia discuss extending Jakarta high-speed railway

By Stefanno Sulaiman

JAKARTA (Reuters) - China and Indonesia discussed potentially extending a multi-billion dollar Beijing-funded railway project, an Indonesian minister said, after Chinese Premier Li Qiang rode the bullet train on a trial run on Wednesday.

The 142-kilometre high-speed rail line currently connects the capital Jakarta to the city of Bandung.

The prospect of extending it to Indonesia's second-biggest city of Surabaya, more than 700 kilometres across the island of Java, was discussed with Li and the premier was supportive, senior Indonesian minister Luhut Pandjaitan told reporters.

Li and Luhut tested the train across a 41-kilometre (25.5 miles) section of the track from Jakarta to Karawang on its outskirts, according to Emir Monti, spokesperson for KCIC, the consortium building the project.

The $7.3 billion flagship project of Indonesian President Joko Widodo, which is part of China's Belt and Road Initiative, has faced a range of problems from land procurement issues, delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic and ballooning costs.

Indonesia has set a target for commercial launch of the Jakarta-Bandung track on Oct. 1, far behind its original target of 2019.

But even as Li tried the train, the project had not received an operational permit from Indonesia's transport ministry, which was waiting on results of safety checks, Transport Minister Budi Karya Sumadi said.

However, Budi said he was sure the project was safe.

"(Li) was very satisfied. He said the quality was the same with the ones in China," Luhut said.

KCIC is made up of Indonesian and Chinese state companies, which include construction firm Wijaya Karya and China Railway Engineering Corporation.

Li is in Jakarta to attend high-level meetings with leaders of countries in Southeast Asia and beyond.

(Reporting by Stefanno Sulaiman; Writing by Gayatri Suroyo; Editing by Kanupriya Kapoor)