Trains retired from Japan finding new life pampering Jakarta’s commuters

by Rudy Madanir

Kyodo News

JAKARTA — More than 210 secondhand trains imported from Japan have helped improve commuter services linking Jakarta and its satellite towns.

Thousands of commuters living in towns such as Bogor, Tangerang, Bekasi and Depok have long relied on the trains, which many say are exceptionally clean and comfortable.

“I like to travel on the trains, as they are not only faster, taking only 45 minutes to Jakarta, and cooler thanks to air conditioning, but also relatively on time,” regular passenger Hadi Prayitno, 41, said.

Residing in Bojong Gede, near Bogor, about 60 km from Jakarta, Prayitno uses his motorcycle to get from his home to the nearest train station, about 5 km away.

“I just park the motorbike at the station in the morning and then take the train to Jakarta to work,” Prayitno said, describing his daily routine.

Prayitno said he used to commute between his home and Jakart on his motorcycle, which could take about 2 1/2 hours and was more expensive due to high fuel consumption.

“And of course, more tiring!” he said.

While traveling by private car or public bus is more costly and takes longer, some still consider their cars a status symbol and jam the roads to and from Jakarta with their vehicles.

A regular air-conditioned train costs 6,000 rupiah (about ¥50) one way, and an express train costs 11,000 rupiah, while the overcrowded regular trains without air conditioning, which stop at every station, only cost 2,000 rupiah.

In the morning and afternoon rush hours, dozens of people who cannot find any space in trains climb onto their roofs and ride to their destinations for free. Although the rail authority has banned this and occasionally sprays them with colorful liquid, the rooftop riders are still a common sight.

The Japanese trains have also helped the cash-strapped Indonesia railway, PT. KAI, to improve its service. It now runs until midnight to meet the increasing ridership.

“It also has changed the habit of train passengers, as more and more of them like to read in the train because of the comfort,” said PT. KAI spokesman Ahmad Sujadi.

When asked whether the company expects to import more trains from Japan in the future, Akhmad said his company is willing to do so. “But the price of the trains is still quite expensive for us.”

He added, however, “they are easier to maintain and they are more durable.”