World

7km bridge to 'improve connectivity' in Batam, Bintan

Indonesia revives plan to link islands in Riau province

Indonesia has revived a plan to connect Batam and Bintan with a 7km bridge as part of President Joko Widodo's goal to boost connectivity in the Riau Islands province, also known as Kepri.

The project involves the construction of three links - from Batam to Pulau Tanjung Sauh, then on to Pulau Buau and finally to Bintan.

Kepri governor Nurdin Basirun told The Straits Times this week that Chinese state investment firm China Power Investment Corp is among the companies which have submitted proposals for the project.

"Of course, China Power was not the only investor interested in building this Batam-Bintan bridge; we have many other investors who submitted proposals," said Mr Nurdin.

"We are evaluating all of them, with our main consideration being when the break-even period (for the project) will be."

The Batam-Bintan bridge was mooted by the Batam Industrial Development Authority in 2005. A South Korean firm expressed interest after a feasibility study was conducted in 2012, but the project did not take off.

The local government has been trying to revive it since.

A new feasibility study is being done to evaluate the project, but Mr Nurdin stressed that the Kepri government will have to follow Jakarta's lead.

"This is a big project and I cannot decide on my own," he added. "It is a project under the BOT concept."

Build-Operate-Transfer is a form of project financing where a company receives a concession to construct, own and operate a toll road, bridge, tunnel or other infrastructure project for a contracted period of time, before the ownership is transferred to the government.

It is not clear how much the project would cost, But past plans to call for a tender for the bridge put it at US$350 million (S$475m) in 2009.

When he was elected in 2014, Mr Joko had promised a strong push for infrastructure development as well as to improve connectivity in the country.

Jakarta has been courting foreign investors, especially from China and Japan, to support the energy and transport sectors.

China Railway Corp is a joint-venture partner with Indonesia in the US$6 billion Jakarta-Bandung high-speed rail link, while China Power and Anhui Conch Cement are major players in other infrastructure projects.

Mr Nurdin believes that connecting the two islands by road will have a "multiplier effect" for his province, home to Batam, Bintan and Karimun, a free trade zone collectively known as BBK. Batam is home to about 1.2 million people with many working in heavy industries.

Its lower costs have attracted many Singapore firms and Mr Nurdin said he would welcome investors from Singapore playing a part in the Batam-Bintan bridge.

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