Training for disasters
About 18 months ago, in the early days of Jakartass, I recounted what it was like to commute into town by cattle class train. You might like to read my two posts, here
, before reading on.News
that the roof of a commuter train carriage caved in yesterday morning should not really have been a surprise.An official of state railway company PT KAI
(Kereta Api Indonesia
- lit: Indonesian Trains) also said the carriage - with maximum capacity for 106 standing passengers - was grossly overcrowded, with many people forced to find space on the roof.
Spokesman Ahmad Sujadi said the probable cause of the accident was overcrowding, particularly due to passengers sitting on the roof.
"The train carried three times its standard capacity and the passengers also took up the whole roof, making the roof construction bend and collapse," he said.
"There were only four cars on Friday instead of the usual six," he said. "What made matters worse was that the chassis of the car disintegrated, causing the floor to buckle near the center, with the rear of the car flipping up and tossing people back into the center."
The Blame Game
Ahmad said the company posted notices on billboards and noticeboards at all stations forbidding people from riding on the roof. "We have even put barbed wire on the roofs of some cars. But that doesn't stop them," he said.
PT KAI will cover hospital treatment for all passengers holding tickets.
"Those, who were riding on the train roof didn't pay for a ticket. Since they wouldn't listen to our warnings, I think they should bear the risk themselves," Ahmad said.
That folk ride on the roof is not necessarily because they're avoiding payment of the fares. Maybe there isn't any room inside. At Rp.1,500 (c. US.15c / UK 10p) rail fares are lower than bus fares thanks to a government subsidy. In return, the government expects the railway company to finance new tracks and rolling stock from its other revenue, especially the non-economy train services.
Local train commuters get the distinct impression that PT KAI doesn't care. The roling stock is old, much of it dating from the sixties or, like Jakarta's 'new' buses, secondhand stock from China or Japan. It's generally filthy with sliding doors that are either jammed open or jammed shut so passengers on economy trains have to put up with general discomfort.
With Jakarta continuing to expand and Governor Sooty proposing capital intensive glamour projects to meet transport needs, such as a monorail and further tollroads, we cannot expect the train network to offer the service which, with adequate investment and attention, it could.
And the public spokesman makes trite and unfeeling comments like the above. Yet the official website
(in Indonesian) describes train travel as being non-polluting, energy efficient and with a key role to play in the future development of the country.
Of course it is and the sooner government officials, both local and national, started focussing on the immediate yet long-term needs of their constituents ~ who now elect them ~ the sooner we can forgive them their current focus on our morals, ethics and boobs, a focus presumably arisen to divert attention from their own peccadillos and callous indifference to the rest of us.If you want more information about Indonesia's train network, rolling stock, history etc., ignore the official site and have a look at these:*Kereta Api Group (host of links)*Florian Menius (includes timetables, train names etc. from two years ago.)