Rail Travel Revival in Sumatra


I really enjoy train travel and especially in Indonesia. Of course you can travel 1st class but that’s a bore. The most interesting and surprising in many ways is that of the so-called ‘cattle class’ — economy.

It’s a great way to meet people from all parts of Indonesia, learn about their culture and way of life and, no doubt, hear of their woes and misfortunes. I have travelled all over Java by train and loved it immensely.

And now, according to an article by Syofiardi Bachyul Jb, there has been a train revival in West Sumatra. This is really exciting news as it makes a change from travelling by road which is more often than not, washed out during the rainy season. If you are travelling through Sumatra then check this trip out because I don’t think you will be disappointed. I’m looking forward to that journey on my return trip to Sumatra.

Here’s the article:

Rail revival launched in West Sumatra

West Sumatra marked the attempted revival of its railway network as a key means of transportation for civilians and cargo by launching the Padang-Pariaman route Thursday.

The train plying the 70-kilometer route will serve passengers daily, leaving Simpang Haru station in Padang at 6 a.m. and returning from Pariaman station at 4 p.m. the same day. The route formerly served holidaymakers every Sunday.

The passenger train was named Si Binuang after a buffalo that protected Cindur Mato, a founding figure of the Pagaruyung Kingdom in Minangkabau folklore. It was officially launched by West Sumatra’s provincial secretary Yohannes Dahlan at Simpang Haru train station Thursday.

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The event was attended by a number of regents and mayors, as well as officials from state railway company PT Kereta Api Indonesia (KAI) and activists, who took a ride on the train.

PT KAI’s West Sumatra Division head Sukirman Denin said the restoration of the Padang-Pariaman train route owed to the provincial administration, the Padang and Padang Pariaman municipalities and the Padang Pariaman regency, which allocated operational subsidies from their 2007 budgets.

The route will cost Rp 100 million (US$11,200) to operate monthly, returns of which will be paid to the respective areas from ticket sales.

“The launching of the Padang-Pariaman railway route is an initial and significant move to revive the railway network in West Sumatra,” said Denin, adding that activating the new route will pave the way for public railway transportation in Padang city.

The West Sumatra Division of PT KAI and the provincial administration, supported by regencies and mayoralties, have planned to restore a number of other routes in a bid to boost the tourism sector.

Facilitated by Padang municipality, PT KAI is planning to establish railway links from the city center to Minangkabau International Airport, the Andalas University campus in Limau Manih, the Teluk Bayur Port, PT Semen Padang in Indarung and Pulau Air Padang, near Kota Lama in Muara Padang.

The subsequent program is to open a route for tourists from Padang to Sawahlunto through the Anai Valley in April. Tourists wishing to visit Bukittinggi and Payakumbuh will be taken by special buses from Padangpanjang.

PT KAI will work together with a private firm to revive the coal train — which has been closed for the past four years — from Padang Sibusuk (Sawahlunto-Sijunjung) to the PT Semen Padang cement plant in Indarung and Teluk Bayur Port.

“We are determined to optimize railway assets in West Sumatra with help from regental administrations, and are confident that with assistance from the provincial administration and other related regencies we can achieve the BEP in three years’ time,” Denin said.

PT KAI business development director Yulison Arifin said most of the railway routes in West Sumatra had been inoperative since 2004.

“The routes and lines would likely close in the end, and once they are closed West Sumatra’s railway history is gone forever. Keep in mind that the railway was one of the province’s economic pillars previously,” Arifin said.

The railway service in West Sumatra played an important economic role during the Dutch colonial administration, alongside PT Semen Padang, the Ombilin coal mine in Sawahlunto and the Teluk Bayur Port.

Syofiardi Bachyul Jb

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