JAKARTA – Both Japan and China were left stranded on the platform Friday after Indonesia examined their two bids to build a high-speed rail link and nixed the project, saying it would build a medium-speed line instead. The line will link Jakarta with the West Java provincial capital of Bandung.
A Cabinet minister announced the decision late Thursday, after what were described as heated discussions of the bids submitted by Beijing and Tokyo.
It came after President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo hinted earlier that day that the Chinese proposal, which did not require a financial guarantee by Jakarta, might have been chosen over Japan’s. He cited financing concerns.
Coordinating Minister for the Economy Darmin Nasution told reporters after a five-hour meeting about the project with other ministers that the president decided a high-speed service was not needed on the proposed line.
Nasution said the 150 km distance is relatively short for a rail link and insufficient for a high-speed train to sustain an envisaged top speed of 300 kph. He added that a slower service would be significantly cheaper.
“Although the speed could be 300 kph, the train would not be able to reach the maximum speed, because before it reaches the speed, the brake has to be put on,” Nasution said.
“So we only need a train with the speed between 200 kph and 250 kph. … A medium-speed railway is enough.”
The top economic minister said what was at stake in terms of journey time was a mere 11 minutes, while the slower train would cost 30 to 40 percent less.
Nasution said the government will solicit bids for the new project and Japan or China would be free to submit proposals.
Speaking to reporters Friday in Tokyo, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Japan will decide on its next steps after receiving a detailed explanation from the Indonesian government about the cancelation of what would have been the country’s first high-speed rail line.
“We will consider measures after carefully studying Indonesia’s thinking,” Suga said.
On Friday, the Japanese ambassador in Indonesia, Yasuaki Tanizaki, met with Nasution and expressed “regret” over the scrapping of the project.
“Japan, I believe, has the best technology. However, the decision has been made by (the) Indonesian government,” Tanizaki said. He added, the Japanese government respects any decision made by the Indonesian government.
The Chinese ambassador, Xie Feng, was expected to meet Nasution later in the afternoon.
Only Japan and China made comprehensive feasibility studies to enter bids for building the link. They each envisaged a journey time of 36 minutes.
China’s proposal did not call for a government guarantee, whereas Japan’s did.
Tokyo submitted a new proposal last week with greater usage of Indonesian goods and services.
Japan’s bid said construction could begin in 2016 and would take five years to complete.