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Indonesian govt policy may derail KAI railway developments
Publication Date : 16-09-2013
Traveling by train, whether around Greater Jakarta or further afield to small towns in Central and East Java, is more comfortable today than it was a decade ago.
Thanks to state-owned rail operator PT Kereta Api Indonesia (KAI), which has carried out a number of improvements in the past few years.
However, the improvements have not come without tough challenges.
KAI president director Ignasius Jonan said the company faced a lot of obstacles, most of which came, perhaps surprisingly, from central government policy.
Citing one example, Ignasius said the plan to develop a rail link from Manggarai station in South Jakarta to Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Banten, west of the capital city, was hampered by the central government’s plan to elevate sections of the railway in central parts of the city.
The policy also affected the company’s plan to revamp the existing railway system in Greater Jakarta.
Parts of the railway set for elevation included major transit stations for passengers traveling to and from the suburbs, namely Jatinegara (East Jakarta); Manggarai (South Jakarta); Tanah Abang (Central Jakarta); Duri (West Jakarta); Kota (West
Jakarta), and Kampung Bandan (North Jakarta), which together are situated on what is commonly known as the “loop line”.
“We secured a presidential decree in 2011 to develop the airport link and the commuter line, but now we have had to halt our development plan and wait for a new design, as the National Development Planning Board [Bappenas] and the Transportation Ministry have decided to start construction of the elevated loop line next year,” he told The Jakarta Post.
“They made this decision without involving us, despite the fact that this decision has a huge impact on our planned projects.”
Deputy Transportation Minister Bambang Susantono recently said that work on the mega loop-line elevated railway, which is
estimated will cost Rp 9.5 trillion (US$836 million), would begin in 2014 with the first phase covering the eastern loop line linking Manggarai and Kampung Bandan.
Bambang said the elevated railway would shorten journey times to around three to five minutes, creating faster and more efficient trips.
The government has allocated Rp 700 billion from the 2014 state budget for this project. Ignasius, however, said he suspected powerful lobbying by the automotive industry was behind the elevated railway project.
He also said the project would not in fact accelerate the pace or headway of trains.
“It will, however, reduce traffic congestion in the capital city, which is worsening every single day,” Ignasius said, adding that the government should wait for KAI to finish the airport link and Jabodetabek improvements before commencing the elevated railroad works.
According to Ignasius, KAI was also expected to pay for railroad maintenance, operations and signaling, even though the 2007 Railway Law states that these expenses should be borne by the government.
KAI spent around Rp 1.7 trillion last year on these three components. If the government was willing to pay 1 trillion Indonesia rupiah and leave the remainder to KAI, Ignasius said, the company would be able to allocate more money to rejuvenating the aging railroad coaches used on medium- and long-distance routes, such as Jakarta-Yogyakarta, Jakarta-Malang (East Java) and Jakarta-Banyuwangi (East Java), as well as improving passenger service and rail safety.
“The government’s policy does not support railroad-based, mass public transportation; it is too busy building more roads for private vehicles,” he continued.
Separately, the Indonesian Transportation Society’s (MTI) head of railways, Djoko Setijowarno, said the government had yet to prioritise railroad infrastructure, viewing it as too costly.
“This is a wrong-headed point of view because even though railway investment requires a lot of money, trains are more sustainable for the future, they offer a more efficient distribution of people and goods compared to road vehicles and they use less fossil fuel,” Djoko told the Post.
He said Indonesia should learn from European countries that had strong railroad-based transportation, adding that it helped reduce logistics costs and promoted economic growth.