Jakarta (Jakarta Post/AsiaNews Network): The Jakarta-Bandung high-speed rail project, already beset by a budget surge and missed deadlines, has hit another snag after a work train involved in the project tipped over the track, killing two foreign nationals. The technician died and the worker was injured on Sunday (Dec. 18 night).
PT Kereta Api Indonesia China (KCIC) company secretary Rahadian Ratry confirmed that the incident happened around 5 pm on Sunday in Cempaka Mekar village, Padalarang, West Bandung Regency, West Java.
“KCIC has been coordinating with relevant parties on this incident and we have been cooperating with the authorities in their investigation into the matter,” Rahadian said on Monday.
KCIC, a joint venture between a consortium of state-owned enterprises and several Chinese railway companies, oversees the construction of the high-speed rail.
“From the latest reports, there are six victims so far. They include two casualties, two seriously injured and two others slightly injured,” said Transport Ministry spokesman Adita Irawati. ) explain.
While the ministry did not specify the identities of the victims, Padalarang police chief Darwan Hasan said the two casualties were Chinese nationals involved in the project.
Sunday’s tragedy is the latest in a long list of problems plaguing the ambitious high-speed rail project. While the government initially set a $6 billion budget for the project, Didiek Hartantyo, president of KCIC-affiliated PT Kereta Api Indonesia, said in November that the cost had ballooned to $7.5 billion.
During bilateral talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G20 summit in November, President Joko Widodo set a June 2023 deadline for completing the project.
But after Sunday’s incident, the transport ministry ordered work on the project to be suspended pending an investigation.
“After the survey is completed, we will compile a recommendation as a guide on how to improve the safety of the railway construction project,” Adita said.
While KCIC had earlier said that construction would proceed as planned, Rahadian later clarified to the Post that the company would comply with the ministry’s directives.
Aditya Dwi Laksana, a traffic observer with the Indonesian Transport Association, said that under such circumstances, it is necessary to extend the deadline.
“In my opinion, (the incident) stems from (KCIC) desperately trying to meet the June 2023 deadline,” he said.
Aditya cited other past incidents, including a pillar falling on top of an excavator in December 2021, as evidence that KCIC ignored safety procedures to expedite work on the project.
However, despite these setbacks, the government has revealed their ambition to extend the high-speed rail all the way to Surabaya, East Java.
While the longer distances would allow for better use of high-speed trains compared to current short-distance routes, Mr Aditya warned the government against overextending.