The Jakarta administration inaugurated on Sunday the city’s first railway tourism package aimed at attracting more tourists and reducing traffic congestion.
The city program will offer a railway tour that will take tourists on a trip from Gambir Railway Station in Central Jakarta to the Tanjung Priok Station in North Jakarta.
During the 40-minute maiden trip on Sunday, tourists are offered the opportunity to catch a glimpse of slums and crowded neighborhoods built by poor residents along the railway before arriving at the grand building of Tanjung Priok Station, which was recently reconstructed to bring back its architectural splendor.
Built in 1914 by the Dutch colonial government, the station once served as a hotel and warehouse. The state railway company PT KAI stopped operating the station in 2001, but reopened it in 2009.
Tanjung Priok Station was opened on April 6, 1925, marking the first electric train service in the Dutch East Indies.
The station, which was recently painted white and gray, has high ceilings and sturdy iron frames that could easily bring tourists back in time before traffic jams regularly choked Tanjung Priok, one of the country’s busiest sea ports.
Other attractions include a bunker thought to be constructed by the Dutch colonial government between 1938 and 1940.
In anticipation of tourists arriving at the station, the Jakarta Tourism Agency has prepared a number of events, including native Jakartans Betawi art performances such as gambang kromong and tanjidor, as well as demonstration in making the traditional Betawi snack kerak telor. “For now, the attraction is not yet available on a daily basis though,” City Tourism and Cultural Agency head Arie Budiman said.
The agency expected that the full-fledged service from the railway tourism package could only be available for tourists in early December.
Also opened for tourists is a railway museum in which visitors could enjoy sketches of old railway stations in Java as well as browsing information from an interactive menu on desktop computers.
Arie said the railway package was aimed at encouraging Jakarta residents to switch to traveling by train. “We want to give proof that train travel can be fun.”
He said that the agency had worked with travel agents to include the railway tour in their packages. “Twenty hotels and 80 travel agents join our trip today to help us promote this program,” Arie said.
During the trip, the agency invited more than 500 guests from train enthusiast communities, foreign tourists, travel agents and students.
Egief D. Haris, member of Edan Sepur ( Crazy for Train ), a train enthusiast community, said that they could help the city administration in its promotion campaign.
“We can help the city government promote trains as an alternative means of traveling. Riding rains, even for leisure purposes can help reduce traffic congestion in the city.”
For some tourists, the trip was an eye-opening experience. “This is my first trip on a train. Usually for my weekend trip, I was driven in my family’s car,” said Faiza Kintan Maharani, a fifth grader from Yayasan Tunas Jakasampurna elementary school in Bekasi.
Jakarta deputy governor for culture and tourism Suketi Martono said the administration would seriously develop the railway tourism package. “It is better for people to travel on trains rather than cars during the weekends. There can be less traffic.” ( lfr )