Jakarta — The Ministry of Transportation has come up with a new set of demands from the Japan-backed Jakarta-Surabaya fast train project. The train should be able to cover the 727-kilometer distance between Indonesia’s two largest cities (Surabaya is located in East Java) in under five hours and be electricity-powered, Transportation Minister Budi Karya Sumadi said on Sunday (08/10). The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the country’s international development body that is managing the project, should be able to cut costs to under Rp 60 trillion (US$4.4 billion), Budi Karya said. “If the trip is around 5 hours, the train can make two-round trips a day, increasing its capacity. Also, with a five hour trip, we expect airline passengers to be persuaded enough to switch. Therefore, we can keep airspace usage levels from being too crowded,” the minister said. Indonesia and Japan came to a critical decision last month to upgrade existing train tracks – currently used by diesel powered trains – by eliminating train crossings instead of making new tracks. That brought down project cost to Rp 50 trillion from an initially projected Rp 80 trillion. The upgrade, however, would only allow trains to run 120 km per hour on average, which would increase the estimated travel time to around six hours. In order to pursue the five-hour goal, Budi said the project should make use of electrical power and reduce the number of bends and cliffs along the tracks. The government, Budi said, is willing to increase the project’s budget to Rp 60 trillion if those demands are met. “Reaching 140 km per hour would still be cheaper than the alternative, building new tracks.” The minister added that Indonesian and Japanese teams are currently preparing a feasibility study for the new requirements and expected to be completed by the end of November. Budi said the government expects construction on the project to start in early 2018. The first section of the tracks, between Jakarta and Semarang (Central Java), should be operational by 2019. The remaining sections would start operations in 2021.