The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Sat, 03/07/2009 2:31 PM
Following Thursday's fatal pile-up at a railway crossing on Jl. Bandengan Utara, North Jakarta, transportation experts have called on state train operator PT Kereta Api to promptly fix its signaling system.
They also urged the administration to launch a massive campaign to promote safe driving practices.
Izzul Waro, a researcher from the NGO Institute of Transportation Study, said most road users violated railway crossing gates because they deemed the system redundant.
"Many city residents who are in a rush have experienced having to wait very long at railway crossings before a train goes by," Izzul said.
"When that happens every day, then psychologically motorists no longer trust the security system and start ignoring the portals."
Izzul added PT KA needed to invest more to improve the effectiveness of the existing signaling system.
"The city's current railway signaling system was established in the 1980s," he pointed out.
"Investment doesn't always mean setting up a new system. The company can allocate more money for frequent and careful maintenance so the system works better."
Bambang Susantono from the Indonesian Transportation Society said it was impossible to alter motorists' reckless driving culture without first providing them with adequate infrastructure.
"Providing infrastructure and campaigning for safe driving have to be done simultaneously," he said.
Two people were killed and five seriously injured in Thursday's incident, when a train collided with eight vehicles - two cars, a truck, a public minivan and four motorcycles. Witnesses said the portal had closed long before the train came, resulting in a long tailback. The gates were then opened to ease the jam, and the eight vehicles rushed to cross just as the train came along.
Akhmad Sujadi, spokesman for PT KA's Jakarta office, confirmed the accident occurred due to trouble with the signaling system.
"The system was damaged by floods," he said as quoted by tempointeraktif.com.
Jakarta has 365 railway crossings. Some 150 have manually operated portals managed by officials, while 61 have automatic gates, with 100 managed by local residents who charge motorists to cross. The rest are left unguarded. (hwa)