Source AP ©

Indonesia plans connect Java and Sumatra islands by bridge

Indonesia is considering a suspension bridge over the 30-kilometer (18-mile) strait separating Java and Sumatra islands, in what would be a major engineering feat in the earthquake-prone region, a construction consortium said Thursday.

The governors of provinces at either end of the Sunda Strait and a group of local firms agreed to conduct a feasibility study into the bridge, which could end up being the world's longest, said Heka Hertanto, a spokesman for PT. Artha Graha, the leading firm in the consortium hoping to build the bridge.

The rail and road bridge - which was first proposed in 1965 - would cost about US$10 billion (EUR7.04 billion), and if the project gets the go-ahead, construction would be slated to start in 2012, Hertanto said.

"This is an ambitious project," Hertanto said.

The bridge would have to be built to withstand powerful earthquakes and tsunamis, because the strait is in one of the most seismically volatile regions in world.

Java and Sumatra are home to more than half of Indonesia's 220 million people and its largest cities. Currently around 350,000 people and 25,000 vehicles cross the strait daily by ferry, he said.

Hertanto said predicted traffic flows would soon overwhelm the capacity of the ports of Merak on Java and Bakauheni on Sumatra.

"The Sunda Straits bridge will be the only the answer to solve the problem in the future," he said.