27 April 2010

Passengers bid farewell to legendary train

Published in The Jakarta Post (http://www.thejakartapost.com) The Jakarta Post Tue, 04/27/2010 4:01 PM

Indah Setiawati

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.

— JP

Copyright © 2010 The Jakarta Post - PT Bina Media Tenggara. All Rights Reserved.

7 April 2010

An afternoon at Purwosari Station, Solo

These pictures were taken at Purwosari station on the afternoon of 16 March 2010, while waiting for the Semarang bound Joglosemar train from Yogyakarta.

6 April 2010

Uncertain future for C1218 in Solo

For more than two decades C1218 (constructed by Hartmann in 1896) was stored in the back of the shed in Cepu, forgotten and neglected but more or less intact. In 2002 a group of foreign railway enthusiasts led by Rob Dickinson, a frequent visitor to Indonesia and an authority on Indonesia’s railway heritage, were able to collect enough money to move C1218 to Ambarawa. The idea was that it would be restored there, but things did not move as fast as expected, and C1218 sat rusting outside the shed at Ambarawa for about three years. Suddenly, however, in 2005 PTKA (the Indonesian Railway Company) decided that it could spend money to restore C1218 and within a few months Pudjiono and his staff at the Ambarawa Locomotive Depot were able to make C1218 run again.

C1218 in Ambarawa

The intention was to use the restored C1218 on the flat AmbarawaTuntang line. But the line was not ready yet for C1218 as it still needed major improvements. As a result C1218 did not see much service after being restored. Except for an occasional run to Jambu it was mostly idle at the Ambarawa shed.

Meanwhile, the Mayor of Solo came up with the idea to have a steam train run on the track alongside Slamet Riyadi Street, Solo’s main thoroughfare, to attract tourists. At that time only one train, the once daily, one-coach Solo - Wonogiri feeder train hauled by an ancient BB300 series Krupp diesel engine, used the track.

In April 2009 the Mayor together with a busload of city officials came to Ambarawa to pick an engine for the tourist train. Initially, the Mayor wanted the mammoth CC5029 Mallet engine. This, of course, was out of the question. Besides being unsuitable for an urban line (CC5029 used to serve the mountainous Priangan region), CC5029 was in such a bad condition that it would be much too expensive to restore it. Finally, it was agreed that C1218 would be leased to the City of Solo. It was also agreed that in September of that year C1218 and its rack of two wooden coaches (also from Ambarawa) would operate as a tourist train in Solo.

At that time the Indonesian Railway Preservation Society (IRPS) had already pointed out to the City of Solo as well as PTKA that there was not yet any proper facility in Solo for maintaining C1218. No one, however, paid much attention, so on 27 September 2009 amid much fanfare the steam tourist train, named ‘Sepur Kluthuk Jaladara’ was launched. In mid March, however, there were reports that all was not well with C1218. IRPS, therefore, decided to send a small team (Aditya Dwi Laksana, Asep Suherman and myself) to Solo to find out what the problem was.

When we left Semarang Poncol Station on 16 March 2010 only Setyo Prakoso, an IRPS member living in Solo, knew about our schedule for that day. However, just after we passed Gundih on board the Pandanwangi train, Aditya got a call from Sutrisno, Head of Operations of PTKA's Region 6. How he knew about our itinerary is a mystery. In any case, when we arrived at Solo Balapan desides Setyo, Sutrismo was also there to meet us. Without wasting any time we were immediately rushed to Solo Balapan depot.

Gundih station

At the depot we were greeted by the depot chief Joemarno and some of his staff. They showed us Jaladara’s two wooden coaches (whose paint, we had been told earlier, had been peeling off due to being constantly exposed to rain and sun) which had just been given new coats of paint. Sutrisno also showed us all the repairs and maintenance work done to C1218 since its arrival in Solo from Ambarawa in September 2009. Basically, they were trying to convince us that Jaladara was not being neglected and was ready to operate any time. Nonetheless, they admitted that they had to work harder because C1218 and its rack were still stabled in the open, without any protective shelter.

C1218 in Solo Balapan

Sutrisno showing the maintenance work done to C1218

Regarding the absence of the protective roof for the railway Jaladara we were told that the original plan to place it in the depot at Purwosari could not be carried out because Purwosari depot is already full. Furthermore, the security there was poor because the depot is not a restricted area. So they thought that it is better that Jalasara remain at Solo Balapan depot, at least for the time being, despite the lack of any protective roof.

Purwosari depot

The fact is there has been a plan to construct a protective roof for Jaladara. But the City of Solo and PTKA have not agreed on who should bear the costs. We also found out that the lease payment mechanism from the City of Solo to PTKA is unclear. Rather strange, we thought, because normally such an important issue would have been settled right from the very beginning. This also means that that there is actually no money specifically set aside for maintaining C1218.

Meanwhile, the people of Solo, who used to be very enthusiastic about Jaladara, have been complaining about the high price they have to pay to ride on the train. Residents have to pay IDR 30,000 per person per trip, while non-Solonese have to pay IDR 200,000 per person per trip. Chartering the whole train would cost IDR 15,000,000. By Indonesian standards those are indeed steep figures.