PROPOSALS to develop a fixed link between Sumatra and Java were unveiled by Indonesia’s National Development Planning Agency at the end of March. The aim is to start construction next year, with opening envisaged in 2008.

The plan is to build a twin-bore tunnel between Banteng and Lampung, through which electric shuttle trains would carry road vehicles, using similar technology to the Channel Tunnel. The two bores would have an internal diameter of 7·0m, and one may be built and opened first to ease the cash flow. The Nusantara (National) Tunnel would be around 33 km long, crossing the Sunda Strait at an average depth of 70m below sea level, or 40m below the sea bed.

According to NDPA Deputy Infrastructure Development Director Suyono Dikun, each bore would cost around US$2bn to build. Another US$4m a year would be needed to operate and maintain the link. With around 15000 vehicles per day expected to use the service, the average fare is put at US$20.

NDPA Chairman Kwik Kian Gie says the US$15bn project is likely to be taken forward as a public-private partnership through a BOT concession. Among the firms expected to take an interest are state-owned railway administration PT KA, electricity company PT PLN, telecommunications group Telkom and petroleum company Pertamina. Suyono says the financing consortium will be led by European investors.