Jakarta operators beg for fare hike to survive

Spare-part prices have risen by up to 300 per cent over the last year but public-transport fares have stayed put the last two years, say operators.

FARE hikes or go bust – that is what many transport operators in the city crippled by the economic crisis have to choose between.

Following the rupiah’s nose-dive, prices of spare parts and maintenance have soared while fares have not been raised for the last two years.

“It is as if we are breathing our last,” said Mr Priyatmedi, spokesman for the Jakarta Association of Land Transport Entrepreneurs.

Indonesia’s leading daily Kompas yesterday quoted him as saying that if the demand for a fare hike was rejected, the government might have to take over the city-bus lines as none of the private companies would be able to survive the crisis.

Spare-part prices have risen by up to 300 per cent over the last year largely because many of them are imported, or, if produced locally, have high import content.

Failure to meet maintenance cost and low fares – a bus ride in the city costs Rp700 (1 Singapore cent) – have resulted in a scaling down of public-transport operations.

Mr Dimmy Kirbrandiman, deputy chief of the Jakarta Land Traffic Office, said that over the last year, 79 out of 690 public-transport routes in the city had been halted.

Most of the routes were being served by buses of the state-owned Jakarta Transport Company.

Other companies have also been forced to reduce their fleet of buses. The private Cooperative for Land Transport (Kopaja) now has 600 buses, down from 1,500 before the economic downturn.

“Kopaja is now just waiting to collapse,” Media Indonesia quoted an official as saying.

“If there are no subsidies for spare parts, it will be able to survive for only another two to three months.”

The paper also quoted Mr Marolop Naibaho, the West Java coordinator of Metro Mini, as saying that the company was now operating only between 180 and 200 of its fleet of 300 mini-buses.

“This is because the operational costs are very high and not proportionate with our resources,” he said.

Analysts said that layoffs in the transport industry could cause further unrest if workers and drivers took their grievances to the streets.

Many Indonesians in the capital are also dependent on buses, now more so as taxi drivers have increased fares.

Jakarta has been fortunate so far. It has escaped mass demonstrations demanding spare-part subsidies.

Other Indonesian cities like Medan in Sumatra and Banjarmasin in Kalimantan have been hit badly by such demonstrations in recent weeks.

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