No More Flat Rates

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  • Security officer guarding the e-gate at Duri Station, West Jakarta (09/04). TEMPO/JACKY Rachmansyah

    Security officer guarding the e-gate at Duri Station, West Jakarta (09/04). TEMPO/JACKY Rachmansyah

    Woro Priyanti and the dozens of other commuter train passengers in Depok Baru Station suddenly smiled. They had just set eyes on the new price board. Rates would no longer be the same for short and long distances. “My train fare could go down as much as 50 percent,” Woro told Tempo.

    With the new rates, Woro, who works in the Kuningan area in Jakarta, only needs to pay Rp4,000 for a one-way trip from Depok Baru Station to Tebet Station and vice versa. “But if the train stops at UI Station, the cost will be Rp5,000,” she said. “It is still cheaper.” She was referring to the possibility that the University of Indonesia Station might no longer be a scheduled stop if the e-gate and an e-ticket system cannot be set up there.

    KAI Commuter Jabodetabek (KCJ), a subsidiary of Indonesian railway company Kereta Api Indonesia (KAI), which manages commuter trains in Jabodetabek (an acronym for the Jakarta, Bogor, Depok, Tangerang and Bekasi area), has set progressive rates. For the first five stations, the rate is set at Rp3,000, for the next three stations it is only Rp1,000. With the current rates, Priyanti must pay Rp8,000 for a one-way trip.

    Alas, the excitement was short- lived. The simultaneous application of the e-ticket and e-gate had to be delayed by one month because not all station facilities were in place. The delay was announced on May 30, two days before the new system was supposed to start. “The queues are still long since passengers need explanations,” KCJ CEO Tri Handoyo told Tempo.

    The trial run, which started two weeks ago, showed that passengers and officers alike were still mystified by the new system. Many passengers stood too long in front of the ticket booths, because after paying they did not know where the Commet e-card would appear. In addition, not all e-gate equipment was operating normally. Tempo actually saw a train standing still despite repeated announcements by officials ordering it to move. The new system could very well be useless if trains are continually late.

    Tri Handoyo was optimistic that beginning in early July, everything would proceed without a hitch. Tickets will no longer be one-way, or for single trips only, the way it was during the trial run in May. Customers will be able to enjoy a full train pass, meaning they will not have to buy a ticket at every stop.

    By January 2014, there will be 18 new trains, bringing the total to 74. Each month for six months starting in August, three Series 205 trains from Japan Railway East will arrive. Each train consists of 10 cars. “Each train costs Rp1 billion. The trains are second-hand, but still good,” Tri said. Interestingly, each train has a car whose seats can be automatically folded in order to accommodate more passengers. “Only the machinist can press the button to fold the seats,” he added.

    With the additional capacity, trains will arrive at the station every seven minutes. As for the heavy traffic that would likely come from having many trains on the tracks, Tri said it was not his agency’s job to deal with that. “It is the responsibility of the Jakarta local government to prepare flyovers or underpasses,” he said. “We only operate trains.”

    The reduction in train fares will not reduce KCJ’s revenues. Last year, KCJ contributed only 7-8 percent of KAI’s revenues of almost Rp7 trillion. This year KAI is targeting for KCJ to contribute 10-15 percent of a hoped-for Rp9.4 trillion. Both companies are also targeting a five-percent increase in their net revenues in 2013. In 2012, KAI made a profit of Rp386.09 billion, while KCJ netted only about Rp22 billion.

    The five-percent increase target is in line with the five-percent increase in the number of KCJ’S passengers. “Revenues should rise, or what is the point of having Tri Handoyo?” asked KAI CEO Ignatius Jonan to Tempo on Wednesday two weeks ago, in the presence of a number of high company officials in Gambir Station, Jakarta.

    The number of electric train (KRL) passengers last year was 135 million, or 450,000 per working day. They were served by 58 trains, seven of which were non-air-conditioned. KAI has invested Rp7.6 trillion to develop KRL in Jabodetabek; Rp5.48 trillion for facilities and Rp2.13 billion for infrastructure. Specifically, the repair and sterilization of 63 stations in Greater Jakarta ahead of the new system cost Rp20-30 billion. “It is not too much because corruption has been reduced,” Jonan said.

    According to Jonan, one must believe that improvements in service will increase revenues. He showed proof of KAI’s 15-percent yearly increase in revenues since he took office in early 2009. The implementation of the e-ticketing system will reduce the number of passengers who do not have to stop to pay, as well as expedite service.

    The changed rates will also entice new customers on the short routes, especially outside rush hour, for example, from 9am to 3pm. “Currently, almost no-one is interested in taking the train from Tebet to Gondangdia passing two stations because they have to pay Rp8,000,” Johan said. “Once the fare is only Rp3,000, the number of passengers will rise.” However, the rate for long-distance passengers from Bogor-Jakarta will stay at Rp9,000.

    The progressive rate is expected to reduce traffic congestion in Jakarta outside rush hours. Jonan does not deny that the KRL management will lead to profits for the company. “Without profits, there will be no regeneration nor equipment repair.”

    It was not easy to set up the new system. Jonan had to deal with opposition from inside the agency. “I received an anonymous letter,” he said. Many people have lost their side income because of the change. The practice of illegally asking money from passengers who did not buy tickets and from selling old tickets cannot be continued. The same goes for sponsoring or illegally levying fees from traders in the station area.

    Jonan revealed that each kiosk reportedly levied between Rp5-10 million a year. If a station has 200 kiosks, the illegal levies can reach as much as Rp2 billion per year. “Enjoying the illegal levies are certain individuals who protest too much under various guises,” he said. Consequently, many officials and station heads in Jabodetabek were removed because they refused to support improvement in passenger service. “They were transferred to manage other activities, or to areas with less passengers.”

    The new KRL management system for Jakarta also removed the non-AC economy class. Jonan believes there is some confusion about the term ‘economy class’. He argues that public transport services should not be divided into classes. Moreover, short-distance travel in an area such as Jabodetabek has become a necessity. Service standards should also be improved by installing air conditioning.

    That is why KAI has proposed to the government that all air-conditioned KRL be subsidized through a public service obligation (PSO) funding. These subsidies could cut KRL rates, bringing the first five-station rates to less than Rp3,000 and each subsequent three-station rate to less than Rp1,000.

    The proposal received a positive response. The Ministry of Transportation filed an additional PSO budget to Rp397 billion in the 2013 Budget Amendment for KRL passengers in Jabodetabek. The PSO budget in the 2013 budget is Rp704 billion for economy class trains. “We calculated that one passenger only needs to pay an average of Rp5,000,” Transportation Ministry official Hanggoro Dwi Wiryawan said.

    KAI spokesman Mateta Rijalulhaq was elated by the Ministry of Transportation’s proposal. He only cautioned that the PSO scheme be clear. He pointed out there was a subsidy of Rp1,000 for each passenger to travel the first five stations, and then for each of the next three stations a subsidy of Rp500. “So for going through eight stations, of the total rate of Rp4,000, you only need to pay Rp2,500,” he said. Furthermore, KAI told the House of Representatives (DPR) that the PSO only needed Rp285 billion for long-distance trains, while the rest could be for the KRL. On condition, however, that all long-distance trains are air-conditioned and the rates are determined by KAI.

    Unfortunately, the government rejected the proposal for the additional PSO. Herry Purnomo, an official at the Ministry of Finance, said the amendment to the 2013 State Budget did not provide a budget for spending. The budget focuses on compensating the increase in subsidized fuel prices that will soon be put in force. “The 2013 state budget already has hundreds of billions for PSO budget. So adding the PSO is not recommended,” he told Tempo.

    Tri Handoyo was not too concerned about the PSO. “We will still go ahead with the new system,” he said. Meanwhile, Danang Parikesit, chair of the Indonesian Transportation Society, believes the e-ticket system and the progressive rate will facilitate the mechanism for the government to provide subsidies, both to students and senior citizens. The implementation of the new system in the KRL should be greeted by the government by consolidating e-ticketing so that one card can be used on all modes of mass transportation. “So the MRT (Mass Rapid Transit), train, TransJakarta bus and toll road can be paid with one card,” Danang said.