Construction of China-funded railway in Indonesia seen completed in 2023 amid delays

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesia expects its $6 billion high-speed railway project connecting its capital Jakarta to the city of Bandung to be completed about two years later than initially scheduled, a deputy minister said on Wednesday.

The project, part of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) that is being built by a consortium of Chinese and Indonesian state companies, has faced labour challenges due to travel restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic.

The new timeline by Deputy State-Owned Enterprises Minister Kartika Wirjoatmodjo presented an even longer delay than previously anticipated. Officials previously expected a year delay from the 2021 target for operational debut due to the pandemic.

“The development has reached 56%,” Kartika told a virtual seminar.

“It is hoped to be completed at the end of 2022 or at the beginning of 2023,” the deputy minister said in an online seminar.

President Joko Widodo has recently suggested bringing in Japanese investors to the railway project, which will be the first such train line in the Southeast Asian country, and for it to be extended to Surabaya, Indonesia’s second largest city that is about 760 km (472 miles) to the east of Jakarta.

Kartika said the toll road connecting cities on Indonesia’s Sumatra island has also faced financial and logistical hurdles due to coronavirus containment measures which will set the project back up to two years from its 2024 target. However, a rail line in Greater Jakarta remains on schedule and ready to operate by next year.

Reporting by Tabita Diela; Editing by Gayatri Suroyo and Louise Heavens