Indonesia Loses Its Train of Thought
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The intense competition between China and Japan, to see which country will bring high-speed rail to Indonesia, will not be resolved quickly. Indonesia has abruptly scrapped plans for its US$ 6 billion high-speed train, stating that a ‘medium-speed one’ would better suit its needs. Japan first started lobbying the Indonesian government in 2010 with a very compelling product – namely, its shinkansen bullet trains which have recorded world speed records at over 373 miles per hour. Recently though, China suddenly swooped in to Jakarta with a rail offer of its own. As is the case with most Chinese infrastructure bids, the financing on offer was decidedly more ‘liberal’. Details on speed and contractor aside, the train will connect the capital of Jakarta with Bandung, the country’s third-largest city. Meanwhile, a high-speed rail line between the capital and second-largest city of Surabaya is also under consideration.

Traditionally, travel throughout Indonesia’s 17,500 islands has been most efficiently navigated by plane. However, each autumn we are reminded that investing in a rail network is becoming increasingly prudent. That is the time of year when local farmers burn forests to clear their land, creating a shroud of smoke that can blanket the entire region and inflict chaos upon regional air travel patterns. Coupled with the severe droughts that the area now faces, city dwellers as far afield as Singapore and Kuala Lumpur are staying indoors this week to avoid the choking haze.

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