Fri, 05 Dec 2003

Major railway project completed

Eva C. Komandjaja, The Jakarta Post, Cikampek, West Java

The government has completed the construction of the 135- kilometer double track railway linking Cikampek and Cirebon in West Java -- a project planned decades ago but shelved due to lobbying by politically-connected businessmen.

The project was officially inaugurated on Thursday by Presi dent Megawati Soekarnoputri at Cikampek railway station..

"We hope this will boost the quality of the train service provided to the public," Megawati said.

The completion of the project will ease congestion on the railway and allow state-owned PT Kereta Api Indonesia to carry a greater number of people between the two towns.

The train is a popular means of transportation among low- income people, and double-track railway lines are considered to be the best solution to easing traffic jams across Java during the Idul Fitri holidays, when millions of people travel from the big cities on Java island back to their home villages in the country.

According to Minister of Communications Agum Gumelar, the Cikampek-Cirebon double-track railway will increase the line's capacity from 145 trains to 280 trains per day and make the journey time between the two towns shorter.

The project was completed in three stages. The first stage stretching 18.4 kilometers from Haurgeulis to Kadokangabus was completed in 1998 with funding from the 1992/1993 state budget.

The second part of the project stretching 62.8 kilometers from Kadokangabus to Cirebon was "partially completed" in 1999. This project was financed by a $81 million official development assistance (ODA) loan from the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC).

"The development of the railway linking Kadokangabus and Cirebon has actually been completed. But, we have yet to replace the signaling and telecommunication system, or build new stations along the line," J.A. Barata, spokesman for the Ministry of Communications' Directorate General of Land Transportation, told reporters.

The third part of the project stretching 54 kilometers from Cikampek to Cikaum started in November 2001 and was completed last month. It was funded by a $67 million loan from the JBIC.

"Actually, the final part of the project was initially scheduled for completion in March 2005. But, we accelerated the work to make it ready for use during last month's holidays," project leader Budi Noviantoro told reporters.

The newly-completed Cikampek-Cikaum project was constructed by John Holland, Adhi Karya and Itochu (HAI-JO). Besides constructing the 54-kilometer-long double track, they also built 12 bridges and 96 box culverts, and installed electric signals and telecommunications devices in nine railway stations along the route.

Java has two railway networks linking the western part and the eastern part of the island, stretching respectively along the northern and southern parts of the island.

The Cikampek-Cirebon line is one of the busiest on the island as trains traveling from the eastern part of Java to Jakarta along the northern and southern railway networks all converge on this line.

The idea of double-tracking the line dates back decades. But, due to lobbying by politically connected businessmen, including cement producers and road contractors, the New Order government under President Soeharto put the project on hold for years, prioritizing instead the development of toll roads in big cities, particularly Jakarta.