Editorial: Railway exodus
The Jakarta Post
The Jakarta Post
Idul Fitri may still be three months away, but preparations for the Islamic post-fasting festival area already under way.
Holiday revelers wishing to return to their hometowns for Idul Fitri have started to throng train station as state-railway company PT KAI began to sell long-distance trip tickets on April 19.
Within only a few days, tickets for various destinations in West, Central and East Java and return trips for certain dates, such as seven days prior to and after Idul Fitri, were reportedly sold out, proving that the train remains the mode of transportation of choice for Idul Fitri journeys.
As of last year, KAI began to limit ticket sales to the number of seats available, in an effort to improve services. In the past, holidaymakers would not hesitate to take the train, even without a seat. Low-cost trains were overcrowded, with passengers occupying every bit of space aboard the train cars.
Compared to the past, when the number of tickets sold was unlimited, today traveling by train is more convenient as passengers without seats are not allowed to board. As a consequence, the railway operator's revenue during Idul Fitri holidays last year declined by up to 10 percent from the same period the previous year.
Service improvements are evident in the provision of air conditioners in low-cost trains. Passengers of executive, business and low-cost trains receive similar services. The difference lies in the facilities they receive.
There are no significant differences in the time it takes between the three classes of train. In the past, low-cost trains had to give way to executive trains. In the absence of disruption, more trains can operate and more passengers can be transported.
The trip time has been reduced thanks to the completion of double-track railway lines along the northern Java line. Construction of the double-track for the southern line will follow in the coming few years.
Innovations by KAI also include reservation and payment through minimarket chains and online booking.
Regrettably, KAI could only transport 2.79 million passengers or 16 percent of holiday revelers during Idul Fitri season last year, despite the fast growing demand. The train capacity will not change much anytime soon unless the full double-track railway network is realized.
In fact, KAI will never be able to serve all Idul Fitri holidaymakers, which last year exceeded 17 million. Passengers choose many types of transportation, ranging from airplanes to motorcycles.
It is no less important, therefore, for the government to make sure public transportation and related infrastructure is ready for the Idul Fitri exodus for the sake of the people's safety.
The earlier the preparations begin, the sooner shortcomings can be identified and addressed.
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