30 January 2009

PT KA set to revive Padang-Sawahlunto railway line

Syofiardi Bachyul Jb , THE JAKARTA POST , PADANG Fri, 01/16/2009 The Archipelago

State railway company PT Kereta Api will soon operate an excursion train serving Padang city to Sawahlunto in West Sumatra, passing through six regencies and offering beautiful sights along the 150-kilometer railway line.

KA West Sumatra Regional Division spokesman Syafrial Romeo said the train service was slated to be launched in February with package tours but no regular service. It is expected to serve domestic and foreign tourists in groups.

"We are still waiting for West Sumatra Governor Gamawan Fauzi to discuss the plan with the heads of regencies," he said Tuesday.

The train service is scheduled to leave the Simpang Haru station in Padang and travel by tourist sites such as the Lembah Anai valley and its waterfall, across a 101-meter long and 19-meter high bridge, and 19-kilometer around Lake Singkarak.

One of the line's unique features is a 33.8-kilometer cog railway track in Lembah Anai, purported to be one of only two in the world.

"A special locomotive is needed to pass along the cog, or rack railway, and for that we will operate the BB204 diesel locomotive," said Syafrial.

KA will also revive the Sawahlunto-Muaro Kalaban short route by operating the E1060 steam locomotive which was returned last month from Ambarawa, Central Java. Only five units of the vintage E1060 locomotive were made in Germany, specially for the route.

On Thursday, the regional division head, Husein Nurroni said that in addition to the Padang-Sawah-lunto route, the company also plans to open short routes to Muara Kalaban, Silungkang and Singkarak Lake using the diesel locomotive.

He also said Vice President Jusuf Kalla is expected to officially open the tourism routes late January or early February.

Syafrial said KA had completed repairs on the Padang-Sawahlunto line using Rp 6.7 billion (US$600,000) of funds provided by the Transportation Ministry and Rp 500 million from the provincial budget, much of which was used to restore bridges and railway sleepers.

The Teluk Bayur-Padang-Sawah-lunto railway line was constructed by the Dutch colonial administration in 1881 to transport coal from Sawahlunto to the Teluk Bayur Port. The line stopped serving passengers in 1980 and coal consignments were halted in 2003.

The West Sumatra provincial administration and a number of municipalities and regencies along the length of the line, as well as KA, are committed to reviving the train service for tourism. The idea of reviving the train service was spearheaded by the West Sumatra Train Lovers Community and aficionados of Mak Itam, literally meaning black uncle (a term coined for steam locomotive in Minangkabau language).

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