China and Indonesia are exploring ways to expand multibillion-dollar rail projects funded by Beijing. The statement came from an Indonesian official after Chinese Premier Li Qiang took a test ride on a high-speed train on Wednesday.
Currently, a 142-kilometer high-speed rail line connects the capital, Jakarta, with the city of Bandung.
The possibility of extending the line to Surabaya, Indonesia's second largest city located more than 700 kilometers across the island of Java, was discussed with Premier Li, and senior Indonesian minister Luhut Pandjaitan said the premier gave his support to the plan.
Li and Luhut undertook a test run of the rail line, which covers about 41 kilometers (equivalent to 25.5 miles) from Jakarta to Karawang, an area on the outskirts of the city, according to Emir Monti, a spokesman for KCIC, the consortium responsible for building the project.
The prestigious $7.3 billion project, backed by Indonesian President Joko Widodo, is an integral part of China's Belt and Road Initiative. The project has faced a number of challenges, including problems with land acquisition, delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and significant cost increases.
Indonesia has set October 1 as the target date for the commercial launch of the Jakarta-Bandung high-speed rail line, well past the original target of 2019.
Although Prime Minister Li witnessed a test run of the train, the project is still awaiting an operational permit from the Ministry of Transportation. Transportation Minister Budi Karya Sumadi said his office was waiting for the results of a safety inspection before issuing the permit. However, Budi stressed that he was confident that the project would meet the required safety standards.
"(Li) was very satisfied. He said the quality was the same as in China," Luhut said.
KCIC itself is a consortium of companies from Indonesia and China, including Indonesian construction firm Wijaya Karya (WIKA.JK) and China Railway Engineering Corporation.
Li's visit to Jakarta is part of a high-level visit to meet with leaders of countries in Southeast Asia and beyond.