Trains remain chief form of public transportation in Java
JAKARTA (JP): Like many densely populated islands, the 127,499-square-kilometer island of Java and its 114 million inhabitants depend heavily on trains.
Trains have become popular among people from all walks of life for many years since the Dutch colonization.
Sparse population and difficult terrain on the country's other major islands, such as Sumatra, Sulawesi and Kalimantan, led the government to not put railway construction in the area as a priority in development.
The rapid construction of railways and stations in so many areas of Java has led people to pick trains as their favorite means of transportation.
Moreover, a train -- which usually has 12 cars -- is able to transport 1,900 passengers per trip.
Other reasons are speed and comfort offered by a train. A bus passenger, for example, experiences tiring traffic congestion during certain parts of the trip.
Last but not least, the train also offers cheaper tickets for the poor.
A passenger on the economic train Tirtonadi, plying the Jakarta-Surakarta route, only pays Rp 14,000 during the current Idul Fitri holiday, which is much cheaper than the economic bus fare for the same route, which costs Rp 22,000 per passenger.
Therefore, it is not strange to see people in Jakarta, for example, crowded at the city's major railway stations to wait for tickets during major holidays, such as Christmas, New Year and Idul Fitri.
Ujang Supriadi, one of the annual Idul Fitri travelers, said train tickets were affordable.
"Besides that, the train can stop near my village in Godong district, Purwodadi in Central Java," he said.
The Jakarta Administration has estimated that as many as 2.1 million people will go home using land transportation during the festive season.
Of these, 1.2 million people will travel by private cars and buses, while the remaining 795,000 will return home by train.
In order to anticipate a wave of passengers heading home for Idul Fitri celebrations, the sole train operator, PT Kereta Api Indonesia (KAI), has prepared a number of reserved trains for its eight major stations here.
In Gambir, for example, 224 cars are on hand as backups.
From last Thursday until Wednesday, the railway firm has recorded over 300,000 passengers traveling from Jakarta, Gambir, Pasar Senen, Jatinegara, Tanah Abang, Manggarai, Tanjung Priok and Kemayoran stations.
The popular destinations include Surabaya, Bandung, Semarang, Surakarta, Yogyakarta and Malang.
Like many peak travel seasons, people usually struggle to get a seat and sometimes put their life at risk.
On Tuesday, for example, hundreds of people, hands full of heavy bags, lined up on the railway track at Pasar Senen station, waiting for the arrival of the Gaya Baru Malang Selatan train, which was heading for Surabaya.
Minutes after its arrival, all space on the train, including toilets and luggage cars, was immediately filled with passengers.
Ujang Supriadi and his two-year-old daughter Hikmawati Yuningsih were at the station six hours before the departure time of 4 p.m.
"I must secure two seats for my family. Otherwise, we have to sit on the floor," he said.
Unlike Ujang, hundreds of other Idul Fitri travelers spend the night at the station simply to get a ticket.
However people sacrifice to get a seat on a train, they are always proud to be part of the annual crowd who all struggle to see their families at home to celebrate Idul Fitri, the first day after the fasting month of Ramadhan. (asa)