Painless Idul Fitri Travel in Indonesia? Government Promises It Will Be

Whether by road, rail, air, or water you really will get where you need to go for Idul Fitri this year — and as painlessly as possible. That’s the pledge from Indonesian officials, who insist all transportation systems are all being readied. The holiday marking Ramadan’s end traditionally sees millions of urbanites head out of the city to celebrate with family and friends. It is often a massive headache for those unable to get tickets or who get snarled up in traffic jams. Officials said on Tuesday that flights were being added, ships checked, road repairs hurried along and security beefed up for the annual exodus, also known as mudik. Transportation Minister Jusman Syafii Djamal said about 16.3 million people were expected to travel in the two weeks surrounding the Idul Fitri holiday on Sept. 21-22. With millions relying on sea or river travel during the holiday and public anxiety heightened by two maritime accidents that killed at least 28 people last week, the ministry is conducting another audit to clamp down on unsafe passenger ships. Sunaryo, the ministry’s director general of sea transportation, said the audit, which began on Sunday, covered safety equipment, the condition of the vessels and staffing. He said it would focus on ships plying the country’s busiest routes — between Java and Sumatra, Bali and Madura, and Bali and Lombok. In July, the directorate general found that 36 out of 39 ships it randomly audited did not meet safety standards. Bobby Mamahit, secretary general of the sea transport directorate, said they were also preparing measures to prevent scalpers from hoarding tickets and selling them illegally. The measures include providing more ships and allowing them to carrying up to 30 percent more passengers than usual. However, he said the ministry would tightly monitor its offices and harbor administrators to prevent overcrowded boats from leaving. Separately, Public Works Minister Djoko Kirmanto said all road repairs and upgrades along the busy main route on the northern coast of Java, blamed for serious traffic congestion, would be halted well before Idul Fitri. “Ten days before Idul Fitri, all works will be stopped even if they aren’t finished,” Djoko said. “I guarantee that all the roads will function well.” Meanwhile, to accommodate the expected 15 percent increase in air passengers, four national airlines have been given the nod to add an extra 188 flights. Officers from Central Java’s Demak Police and state railway operator PT Kereta Api conducted an unannounced inspection of 10 kilometers of track along the Jakarta-to-Surabaya route. The Transportation Minister also said he had asked for assistance from security forces to police departure and arrival points. “It is now clear that there will be an increase in our security efforts at bus and train stations, aiming at building safer conditions for citizens during mudik ,” Jusman said. The National Police will deploy more than 98,000 personnel to safeguard travelers, said Commander Gen. Iman Haryatna, the National Police’s head of security. “The only difference with previous operations is that this year the operation will be directly headed by the National Police chief, not me,” Iman told the Jakarta Globe. The 17-day operation will start seven days before Idul Fitri. Jakarta Police Chief Insp. Gen. Wahyono has said 8,000 officers would be deployed in the capital. Jakarta Governor Fauzi Bowo has estimated that 2.2 million Jakartans would travel home, beginning as early as Sept. 16.

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