Saturday, April 21, 2012

Indonesia Signs Deal For $10.9 Billion Bridge Linking Sumatra to Java

An artist’s impression of the Sunda Strait Bridge, which will link 80 percent of Indonesians. Construction will start in 2014. (ST/Graha Banten Lampung Sejahtera Image) The islands of Java and Sumatra are a step closer to being linked for the first time in their history by Indonesia’s largest-ever infrastructure project. The China Railway Construction Corporation has inked a deal to invest in the RP 100 trillion ($10.9 billion) Sunda Strait Bridge to link the islands — the largest agreement signed during President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s visit to Beijing last month. The state-owned company is behind several rail projects in Africa and the Middle East. It is now waiting for a legal guarantee from the Indonesian government, which is expected to come within weeks. The government is eager for foreign investors to take part in building bridges, highways and other facilities to spur the economy. The 30km bridge had been envisioned by the country’s first president Sukarno since the 1960s, but only recently did steady economic growth make its construction more realistic. A feasibility study is in the works, and construction is to start in 2014. The bridge will link 80 per cent of Indonesia’s 240 million people by road and rail, and will take some 10 years to complete. The world’s largest ships will be able to pass under it, as the bridge will stand 80m at its highest. Indonesia’s longest bridge at present is the 5.4km-long Suramadu Bridge, completed in 2009, that links Surabaya in East Java with the island of Madura. It, too, was built by a consortium of Indonesian and Chinese companies over six years. Officials on both sides of the strait near where the new bridge will start — in Anyer, Java and Bakauheni, Sumatra — are already gearing up for it, with the Banten and Lampung governments publicizing the bridge to attract investors to set up shop there. The connection will also intentionally start at Anyer, 40km south of the port of Merak, from which most ferries to Sumatra currently operate. Geologists and disaster management officials have given the all-clear to the proposed design, by renowned Indonesian architect Wiratman Wangsadinata, which would be able to withstand an earthquake of magnitude 9 as well as eruptions of the Anak Krakatau volcano some 50km away. It was formed after the 1883 eruption of Krakatoa. The bridge will also be 200km from the undersea fault where the Indo-Australian and Eurasian plates meet. As a result, the impact of a tsunami on the bridge will be limited, according to simulations, National Disaster Management Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said. But forget about hiking across the bridge for now: Winds at the strait are often fierce, and the crossing by ferry can stretch up to four hours. Details About the Sunda Strait Bridge At 30km long from coast to coast, the Sunda Strait bridge will span a little more than the distance from Singapore to Batam. It will, at its highest point, be 80m above sea level - taller than a 25-storey Housing Board (HDB) point block - so that the largest ships can pass through the shipping lane. It will have six lanes for vehicles, emergency lanes and two railway tracks, in addition to oil, gas and water pipelines, and fibre-optic and electrical cables. A vehicle traveling at 60kmh can cross the bridge in half an hour. The bridge will consist of five sections - with two suspension bridges 2.2km long in the middle - and is likely to skirt the edge of Sangiang Island, a nature reserve. The longest bridge over water at present is China’s 42km-long Jiaozhou Bay bridge. It connects the coastal city of Qingdao to the suburb of Huangdao and was completed last year in time for the Communist Party’s 90th anniversary. But the Sunda Strait bridge hopes to claim a new record. The company behind it says the sections that are suspension bridges will be the longest in the world after Japan’s Akashi-Kaikyo bridge, where the span length is just under 2km. The other three sections will be a series of balanced cantilever bridges, with span lengths of around 200m between pillars.

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