Long-time users of the Parahyangan train, which has for almost 40 years ploughed the Jakarta to Bandung route, spared time Monday to watch the train embark on its last journey before its discontinuation.
One passenger came with his family from as far as Batam to enjoy the spectacle, while others drove all the way from Tangerang, Banten; all with the same intention of becoming “part of the history” as the last passengers on the train, the operation of which was terminated due to financial losses.
“I was so shocked to learn that the Parahyangan would not operate anymore,” Sita Hutabarat, one of the passengers, told The Jakarta Post, adding that recently she had begun taking her car to Bandung, West Java, via the Cipularang turn pike.
Sita drove all the way from her house in Tangerang, Banten, to Gambir station in Central Jakarta to take the Parahyangan with her friend, Mira Idris, who lives in Rangkasbitung.
They came at 8:30 a.m., very close to the departure time of the train, which in the end departed 15 minutes late.
“Had we been late, we would have taken the next train. We are so determined to take this train because today will be its last day,” she said.
Holiday maker Romi Arno from Batam, Riau province, said he had brought his family to ride the Parahyangan because he wanted his children, who had never ridden on a train before, to become part of history.
State railway company PT KAI decided to cancel the train’s operation because it was suffering financial losses due to a sharp decline in passenger numbers.
The train, which began operating in 1971, carried 76 executive class passengers and 204 business class passengers every day on average.
The company reduced the train’s fares to woo more passengers but to no avail.
A one-way business class ticket cost Rp 30,000 (US$3.3), and an executive class ticket Rp 50,000.
PT KAI operated two executive trains, the Parahyangan and the Argo Gede, both serving the same route.
Together they ran six departures from Bandung and six from Jakarta per day with an average occupancy rate of between 50 and 60 percent.
Starting Tuesday, the company will operate only the Argo Gede.
PK KAI’s vice president of passenger transportation Husein Nurrony said the company was forced to take the decision after an evaluation showed it had suffered losses of Rp 36 billion last year.
He blamed the losses on the Cikampek-Purwakarta-Padalarang (Cipularang) turn pike, which has shortened the trip from Jakarta to Bandung from five hours to 2.5 hours.
The 41-kilometer-long turn pike, which cost the state Rp 1.6 trillion, opened only a few days before the Asia Africa Conference Golden Jubilee kicked off in Bandung in April 2005.
Transportation expert F. Trisbiantara said PT KAI’s financial strategy had been compromised by the turn pike. He said experts had warned the government that the turn pike would threaten the rail link.
He said the toll’s smooth traffic would not last long. “It will soon become congested,” he told the Post.
He said developing the nation’s rail network would benefit travelers in the long run because rail’s passenger capacity was “unlimited” as a train could have many extra coaches attached to it on busy days.
“The government should realize that in a large country with an abundance of people like Indonesia, the most appropriate transportation to develop is rail,” Trisbiantara said.
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