Tue, 04 Jan 2000

Government told to up security at bus, railway stations

JAKARTA (JP): The Indonesian Consumers Agency (YLKI) criticized the government on Monday for its failure to improve security and comfort on intercity buses and trains taking people to their home villages for Idul Fitri celebrations.

"Such a failure reflects the government's lack of service- oriented culture," executive Indah Suksmaningsih said.

The government overlooked these matters even during the recent ministerial coordination meeting, which only focused on the number of passengers and vehicle capacities, she said.

"Security and facilities, especially information, at departure points are necessary to avoid misunderstandings that would put travelers in a difficult position," she told a media briefing.

The city administration has estimated that as many as 2.1 million people would celebrate Idul Fitri, the Islamic holiday at the end of the Ramadhan fasting month, in their home villages. Of these, 1.2 million people would travel by bus and another 795,000 by train. The rest would travel by air and sea.

This exodus to rural areas began last week and reached its peak on Saturday and Sunday.

YLKI has set up five complaints posts (Posko) at Kampung Rambutan, Lebak Bulus and Pulo Gadung bus stations and Gambir and Senen railway stations.

The consumer agency is gathering opinions from the public regarding transportation services which will be submitted to the operators as input ahead of the implementation of Law no. 8/1999 on Consumer Protection, starting on April 1.

Indah said most people complained about classic problems, including slow service at ticket counters, irregularities in departure schedules and lack of information.

Some 4,000 people had visited YLKI complaint centers, and all but 51 asked to have their identity concealed because of fears of repercussions from officials or operators, she said.

Insecurity was the main reason which hampered distressed travelers to go to the Posko or the authorities, she said.

"One traveler who came to us said she was intimidated by a ticket scalper after she registered her complaint," Indah said, adding that others were worried about possible maltreatment from drivers and officials during their journey.

YLKI also reported complaints from passengers at the Pulo Gadung bus station about ticket price hikes of up to 300 percent, way above the 25 percent permitted by the government. "We suspect collusion between operators and ticket scalpers," Indah said.

The consumer agency said it had the name of five operators which charged their customers fares exceeding government limits.

Separately, Pudjirahayu, a volunteer at the YLKI complaint post at Gambir railway station said those who visited her mostly asked about irregularities in train schedules, ticket price increases and other questions which should have been explained by the state railway company PT Kereta Api Indonesia (KAI).

PT KAI spokesman Whosep Muktamar, who attended the YLKI briefing, said he welcomed the input from the consumer agency to improve train services in the future.

Aseng, who was hoping to travel to Surabaya with her family on Monday, told The Jakarta Post that her train, originally scheduled to leave at 1 p.m., was delayed for two hours without prior notice.

"So, I just had to sit here (at the side of the station) and wait," she said. (06)