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Daydreaming about a toll road over Java YOGYAKARTA - The road between Yogyakarta and Malang consists mainly of a reasonably maintained two lane road. That is what they call jalan raya ('big road') here, but it's not that big after all. The two most widely used roads for traveling from west to east and the other way around on the island is one road that is virtually on the beach, the Pesisir. The second is a road that runs through the Javanese heartland and brings you to Bandung, Yogyakarta, Surakarta (popularly known as Solo), Madiun and Malang. The road from Yogyakarta to Malang is some 375 kilometers - not in a direct line of course - and has different levels of maintenance in different areas. The road in nice condition in the province of Yogyakarta are in sharp contrast with the bad situation near Madiun.

For years the provincial governments have had their own budgets for their own regions. However it may be clear that not everyone values perfect road conditions as important as others to, a reasonable piece of asphalt is quite important. But they only seem to understand that in the province of Yogyakarta, where the sultan is still the boss and gives enough attention to good roads and green in the city. Outside the province it does get worse pretty quickly. From Surakarta in the direction of Madiun the roads are of pretty good condition for quite some time, but when you eventually reach Madiun, it more looks like you are on a rollercoaster track. The road was most likely constructed on a less than proper soil. This can be improved in several ways, but the option to simply fill up the potholes and then spend the remaining funds on something else is chosen here.

Outside bad maintenance the roads themselves often are constructed in strange manners with sharp turns, intersections with virtually no view and on slopes of mountains. The last point is something you can't just go around; flattening an entire mountain is useless and constructing a tunnel is economically not really sound here. There are however plans for the construction of a toll road across the entire island, however it will take almost until eternity to complete the plan. Ever since the monetary crisis back in 1998 there are plans for the construction of a toll road with a length of some 1500 kilometers. Until today that plan is still a plan, where just some pieces are handed out for tender.

In the years to come it will still all be about day dreaming for those who want to move around over land. The roads here get more crowded by the day because of increasing wealth in the country. Maybe it doesn't go very fast, but with an economical growth of some six per cent, it is quite a big contributor of chocking the road system on an island where some 160 million people live and work. More often there are huge traffic jams because of accidents somewhere in the system of 'big roads'. Avoiding it is not a realistic possibility as well, because there are no real alternative routes unless you mean the small road that runs through dozens of villages. These roads are increasingly used by motorcycles; the cars, intercity buses and big yellow trucks can not do much more than just wait for the situation to be solved.

Bandung, kilometer 'zero', where Daendels ordered the construction of an entire city, nowadays known as Bandung, in western Java.
Bandung, kilometer 'zero', where Daendels ordered the construction of an entire city, nowadays known as Bandung, in western Java.

Waiting for accidents is not the only thing unfortunately. The important crossings from Java to Sumatra at the western side, Bali at the eastern side and Madura in the northeast, are more often than ever gridlocked because of the many goods that have to be transported via those crossings over water in a cheap - but increasingly slow - fashion to other parts of Indonesia. Regularly those many kilometers of queuing trucks outside the gates of the seaport in Merak, in western Java, are reported in the news. One time it is just very busy while another day high waves prohibit any transport over the rough waters. One thing is for sure, transport is getting increasingly slow. A trip by bus from Yogyakarta to Malang takes roughly eight hours without stopping which makes it barely to 50 kilometers per hour on average. That is not something to be proud of but at least traffic is more fast than during the time when the 'Groote Postweg' was built in 1808 under the supervision of Daendels.

In the two centuries after the construction of the road Indonesia and the former Netherlands Indies have changed completely. The only thing that remains is narrow roads over the long island. Nowadays finished off with several layers of asphalt it still is a huge problem for the development of the economy in big parts of Indonesia. It is just about time that much more attention is given to this problem so a new system of good toll roads can be constructed across the island. Toll roads can be maintained easily with the proceeds from traffic while the old-fashioned network of roads can be unloaded from most of it's traffic. Cities and kampung will be safe again, eventually.



Posted in General @ 19 August 2008 by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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