Rail transport in Indonesia

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Argo train entering Gambir Station, Jakarta.

Most rail transport in Indonesia is located on the island of Java, which has two major rail lines that run the length of the island, as well as several connecting lines. The island of Sumatra has five unconnected railway lines in the northernmost province of Aceh, North Sumatra (the area surrounding Medan), West Sumatra (Padang and its environs), and South Sumatra and Lampung.

Indonesia's railways are operated by the state-owned PT Kereta Api, and the newly formed PT Kereta Api Jabotabek, operating the commuter lines in the Jakarta metropolitan area. The infrastructure is state-owned, and the companies pay a fee for the usage of the railway lines.

Indonesia's rail gauge is 1,067 mm (3 ft 6 in), although 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) and 750 mm (2 ft 5 12 in) lines previously existed. New construction in Aceh has the 1,435 mm gauge. Most of the Jakarta metropolitan area is electrified at 1500 V DC overhead.

Various narrow gauge industrial tramways operate in Java and Sumatra, serving the sugarcane and oil palm industries.

Historical overview[edit]

The first railway line in Indonesia started operations in 1867. The railways were gradually expanded by both state and private railways.

The Japanese occupation and the Indonesian War of Independence left Indonesia's railways in a poor condition. A batch of 100 steam locomotives were ordered in 1950, and in 1953 the first mainline diesel-electric locomotive was purchased from the United States. Dieselisation continued apace, and by the 1980s most mainline services have been dieselised. Electric multiple units were also obtained from Japan beginning in the 1970s, replacing 60-year-old electric locomotives.

Since the independence era, all mainline railways in Indonesia have been managed by the government. The owners of the private railway were compensated first, but the system was fully nationalised in 1971.

Construction of new railway lines has been few and far between, and most new construction is concentrated on double- and quad-tracking of existing railway lines. Most of the former tramway lines have been closed, reducing the mileage from about 7000 km to only 3000 km.

Passenger services[edit]

Argo Bromo Anggrek, a long distance passenger train serve Jakarta to Surabaya route

Other than in West Sumatra, where only weekly tourist trains operate, PT Kereta Api (Persero) provides extensive passenger services. Various classes are available, from executive class air conditioned, reclining seat coaches comparable to the better classes of other country's railways, through non-air conditioned business class coaches having reclining seats, to the hard bench non-air conditioned economy class coaches for the cheaper trains. In last couple of years, the business and economic class are in the process of being equipped with air conditioned system. The whole process is completed in early 2013.

Sleeper trains no longer exist in Indonesia. The last all-sleeper train service was Bima express train which ran between 1967-1984. It was changed to mostly coach, leaving only one or two sleeping coaches train. It ran in this configuration until 1995, when the sleeper cars were withdrawn and modified into seating coach.

Argo Bromo Anggrek Executive coach.

In Java, most trains connect Jakarta and the hinterland. Regional (or "cross-country" services) have not developed fully. Between pairs of important cities such as Jakarta and Bandung, intensive hourly services are provided.

Most passenger trains in Indonesia, except commuter locals, were named. The names varied from plainly descriptive such as Depok Ekspres (a fast service between Jakarta and Depok), through Logawa (name of a river near Purwokerto, which is served by the train), Argo Lawu (Mt. Lawu, an extinct volcano near Solo, which is served by the said express train), to more or less meaningless, though romantic, names such as Bangunkarta (abbreviation of names of cities it serves: Jombang-Madiun-Jakarta) and Matarmaja (Malang-Blitar-Madiun-Jakarta).

Gumarang Business coach.

Railway passenger services experienced a renaissance in the 1995-1999 period, with the introduction of many new passenger expresses. With the advent of cheap airplane tickets, PT Kereta Api has experienced a downturn in the number of passengers carried, though the number has stabilized and most trains remain at more than 50% occupancy rate.

Women only carriages[edit]

As response to many reports of sexual harassments in public places, including commuter trains and buses, PT Kereta Api has launched women-only carriages in some commuter trains in Jakarta metropolitan area in August 2010.[1] On May 13, 2013 PT KAI changed women trains to regular trains which at the front and end of the train has a women coach each.[2]

Rail network[edit]

Most of active railway network in Indonesia mainly is operated in Java and connecting main cities in the island; from Merak in western edge to Banyuwangi in eastern edge. However several unconnected railway networks built during Netherlands East Indies exist in Sumatra, such as the ones connecting Banda Aceh-Lhokseumawe-Besitang-Medan-Tebingtinggi-Pematang Siantar-Rantau Prapat in Northern Sumatra (the Banda Aceh-Besitang section was closed in 1971, but is being rebuilt, as of 2011 [3]), Padang-Solok-Bukittinggi in West Sumatra, and Bandar Lampung-Palembang-Lahat-Lubuk Linggau in Southern Sumatra.

Java Transportation Network.svg

Argo Network[edit]

Ka argo.svg

Note: K.A. Argo Gede does not exist anymore (and also K.A. Parahyangan). As a replacement, K.A. Argo Parahyangan trains operate the same routing as a merge of K.A. Argo Gede and K.A. Parahyangan.

Rail in Sumatra[edit]

In Sumatra as of 2013, there are 1,869 kilometers of track, of which 1,348 km are operational.[4] Plans to connect up and fix these isolated lines are included in the Trans-Sumatra Railway plan. Railway services in Sumatra by operational is divided into three regional divisions, which are:

  • Regional Division 1 (Comprising North Sumatra and Aceh)
    • Medan - Tebing Tinggi line
    • Araskabu - Kuala Namu line
    • Tebing Tinggi - Kisaran line
    • Kisaran - Rantau Prapat line
    • Kisaran - Tanjung Balai line
    • Tebing Tinggi - Siantar line
    • Medan - Belawan line
    • Medan - Binjai line
    • Aceh Line (Krueng Mane - Krueng Geukueh)
  • Regional Division 2 (Comprising West Sumatra)
    • Teluk Bayur - Sawahlunto line (156.5 km)
    • Muara Kalaban - Padang Sibusuk line (6.2 km)
    • Bukit Putus - Indarung line (14.5 km)
    • Lubuk Alung - Pariaman line (21.5 km)
    • Pariaman - Sungai Limau line (15 km)
    • Padang Panjang - Payakumbuh line (52.1 km)
    • Payakumbuh - Limbanang line (20.2 km)
    • Padang Sibusuk - Muaro Sijunjung line (19.9 km)
    • Padang - Pulau Air line (5.5 km)
    • Duku - Minangkabau International Airport line
  • Regional Division 3 (Comprising South Sumatra and Lampung)
    • Tarahan - Prabumulih line
    • Kertapati - Prabumulih line
    • Simpang - Indralaya line
    • Prabumulih - Lubuk Linggau line

Freight services[edit]

Train freight service.

The railway system in Java is more or less a passenger-oriented system, and there are few freight services, due to the limited capacity of the tracks. Some notable freight service in Java include the Kalimas container train and the Parcel train between Jakarta and Surabaya, petroleum trains between refineries or oil pipe terminals and oil depots, and quartz sand trains in Central Java.

But in recent years, there has been many efforts to beef up freight traffic in Java by introducing the GE id:CC206 locomotives, as well as building double track lines that connect Jakarta and Surabaya on North Coast line to increase the number of container trains between both cities. Many container loading/unloading ports have also been built on intermediate cities and towns. This effort already attract some customers who normally shipped their products through the road.

The system in South Sumatra is rather freight-oriented. Coal unit trains, carrying coal for an electricity plant are given priority over passenger trains. In West Sumatra, the remaining railway line serves the cement plant at Indarung, near Padang, and in North Sumatra, several oil palm and rubber plantations are served by freight trains.

Interesting facts[edit]

Several "last" steam locomotives were built for Indonesia. E1060, a 1966-built rack steam locomotive (Esslingen 5316) is operable in Ambarawa railway museum. BB84, the last Mallet locomotive built for a non-tourist railway (according to Durrant) was built by Nippon Sharyo Keizo Kaisha in 1962 (works number 2007). This locomotive was plinthed in Banda Aceh and survived the December 2004 tsunami. Unfortunately, the locomotive is in a rather poor condition with its valve gear and cylinder pistons missing (as of March 2006).

Although not a locomotive of the state railway system, the former Trangkil 4 (Hunslet 3902), when built in 1971, was the last steam locomotive built in Great Britain. Sadly, this locomotive had been repatriated.

Urban rail and Bus Rapid Transit[edit]

Greater Jakarta[edit]

The only urban rail network in Indonesia is KRL Jabodetabek. However, Jakarta Mass Rapid Transit is scheduled to open 2016 if all goes well. Together with Transjakarta BRT, they comprise the rapid transit network.

Greater Surabaya[edit]

Regional rail functions as commuter rail in Surabaya, so technically there is no urban rail network. However, a dedicated airport line is being contracted, while a network is being mulled.[5] A 32 km diesel line from Mojokerto to Sidoarjo has been put into service, with 6 daily return trips.


Though BRT is not rail, for now it is the only form of rapid transit, and it is being considered for Surabaya,[6] as well as Batam, Bogor, Yogyakarta, Pekanbaru, Manado, Bandung, Palembang, and Gorontalo.[7]

Preserved locomotives[edit]

Cepu Forest Railway – Du Croo Brauns locomotive

Indonesia had various types of locomotives, being the legacy of the many different companies. Surprisingly, only three steam locomotives remain in operable condition, all located in the Ambarawa Railway Museum. On the other hand, static steam locomotive displays are located in the Transportation Museum (under the auspices of the Department of Transportation) in Jakarta's Taman Mini Indonesia Indah (Beautiful Indonesia in Miniature Park) and Ambarawa Railway Museum (managed by PT Kereta Api) in Central Java. Plinthed locomotives can also be found in most cities and towns. Somewhat surprisingly, few non-locomotive rolling stock were preserved.

Four operatable industrial steam locomotives are present, with two more preserved, at the Cepu Forest Railway. This currently represents the largest concentration of active preserved steam locomotives in Indonesia.

Steam locomotive 1622 "Sri Gunung" (Mountain Queen), a 1,067 mm (3 ft 6 in) mallet built in 1928, preserved in the Dutch Railway Museum.

With the Asian economic crisis of 1997, remaining hulks of steam locomotives formerly standing in former depots became valuable for their scrap value, and by 2000, most locomotives not already plinthed or sent to museums were scrapped, presumably illegally.

A list of preserved locomotives is available online [8]




See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • How the Railroad is Modernising Asia, The Advertiser, Adelaide, S. Australia, 22 March 1913. N.B.: The article is of approx. 1,500 words, covering approx. a dozen Asian countries.



External links[edit]