Easier said than done may be the best way to describe the failure of state train operator PT KAI to provide designated facilities for people with special needs. Meanwhile, millions of travelers are doing whatever it takes to make their journey to their hometowns.
That includes taking the rights of the elderly, the handicapped and pregnant women for the comfort of their own families during the annual Idul Fitri holiday exodus.
“I just pay an extra Rp 10,000 [US$1.11] to an officer so that he will allow me to take this seat,” said a man sitting in the special car, who asked not to be named.
He shared the seat with his wife and only daughter, sitting face-to-face with another young family. Unfortunately, this man was not the only young person in the special car.
Based on The Jakarta Post’s observations at Tanah Abang train station, Central Jakarta, on Monday, there were only four elderly people in the special car, which seats 106; proving that first come, first served.
Many people also had little or no information about the special carriage, placed at the front of each economy-class train, despite a big announcement on the train platform and from the officers, yelling from loudspeakers.
An officer, Zulaimi, said the problem was more about a lack of information for passengers, but also reflected uncontrollable crowds.
“It is difficult [to manage the passengers]. Just difficult,” said the man, who denied having taken bribes to seat passengers.
Passenger Wito, a man in his 60s, did not get a seat in the special car because the places had already been taken by others. “They arrived earlier,” said the man, who was relegated to the second car of the Brantas economy class train, heading to Kediri, East Java.
Most passengers come to the station very early in the morning to secure seats in trains because there is no pre-seating in economy class. People come from all over Greater Jakarta to make sure they get seats, even though the trains also stop at stations closer to their homes.
This explains why the service, which had been offered by PT KAI since Friday for people with special needs, does not work in practice since the service is only offered in the economy class.
It is not clear why PT KAI only provides the service in economy class, but many believe the policy is aimed at helping the cash-strapped company stay in the black.
PT KAI estimates a total of 24,000 travelers already left from two big stations in Senen and Gambir in Central Jakarta. The number is more if the data also includes small stations like Tanah Abang and Jatinegara in East Jakarta.
PT KAI spokesman for operations in Jakarta, Mateta Rijahulhaq, estimated the peak of the exodus would happen on Tuesday, or three days before Idul Fitri.
But apart from trains, travelers also look for other mean of transportation, with many opting to travel by motorcycle. The Indonesian Consumers’ Protection Foundation (YLKI) predicted there would be 2.2 million travelers from Greater Jakarta this year, 72 percent of them opting to travel on two wheels.
The Soekarno-Hatta International Airport has prepared 492 extra flights for domestic and international destinations with 74,200 additional seats during the holidays.
The airport authority expected the number of flight passengers bound for their hometowns or overseas during the Idul Fitri period would reach up to 160,900 on the peak days from Sept. 7-8 and had therefore arranged extra flights.