My love affair with trains

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Tanah Abang Station, Central Jakarta
Tanah Abang Station, Central Jakarta

Everything about trains has always attracted me.

Let me tell you a story. During my childhood, each time I visited my father’s hometown in Sawahlunto, West Sumatra, I never missed the chance to take the train. There was a coal-burning passenger train there and its distinctive always beckoned me.

Unfortunately, in Payakumbuh, the town where I was born and raised, no trains were in operation. However, the remnants of its former glory remained visible. In Parit Rantang, Koto Nan Ampek, the old station building still stands, although it has been converted for another use. Bits and pieces of the once in use railway still peek out through the asphalt. In Padang, the town where I went to college, there are only freight trains. The passenger trains have not been in operation there for decades.

In 1996, in my capacity as a local journalist in Padang, I won a journalism scholarship to Japan for a few months. Traveling to Japan brought me much joy because I was able to ride on a train again. In Japan, the trains are more sophisticated running underground in Tokyo and all over the country.

Riding trains always brings back memories of train trips with my father who passed away in 1982.

These memories conjure a mixture of emotions; happiness and sadness intertwine.

When I moved to Jakarta in 2002 to work as a journalist in Tempo, I was pleased to see there were passenger trains, both diesel and electric train (KRL). However, since train operations in Jabodetabek were not optimal at that time, I instead chose to ride another form of public transportation like a bus.

In 2009, I joined the Internet giant Yahoo! Southeast Asia in Singapore. It was a good thing to find work in Singapore because I could then ride the MRT train all the time. A year later, I returned to Jakarta because Yahoo! already has an office in Jakarta. I only occasionally use KRL because the schedule is still not settled.

It has only been since 2012, when I joined the Jakarta Post, where its headquarter located in Palmerah that I am able to ride KRL every day. I feel the Jabodetabek KRL service [a commuter rail system in the Jakarta metropolitan area] is much better. The station gate already uses electronic cards. Almost all of stations were being renovated.

Yes, you’ve got it right. Any news about the trains has always attracted me. Including the story about the plan of Bandung bullet train project; or the Jakarta MRT project that’s being built and will be operational in the next two years.

Of course I once dreamed that Jakarta would have a sophisticated subway or MRT service some day, but not as soon as this.

For me, personally, this is definitely like a dream come true.

Jakarta MRT
Jakarta MRT project is undergoing [courtesy Detikcom]

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