Govt to let private business engage in railways

Jakarta (Antara News) - The government will let private enterprise enter the railway business through a railway revitalization program to be implemented in 2008-2010, Transportation Minister Jusman Syafii Damal said.

Private business will have an opportunity to invest in and manage railway utilities and infrastructure, Jusman told the press after a meeting on railway revitalization at the vice-presidential office here Wednesday.

A government regulation giving the private sector a role in the operation and management of railways will be issued in March 2008, he said.

"Letting the private sector enter the railway business is in princple intended to create a climate of healthy competition in the field so that there will also be an improvement in the quality of railway services," the minister said.

He said the private sector would at least have a share in the operation and management of special train services to transport strategic commodities such as coal or oil-palm kernel, or also of airport train services.

About the railway revitalization program, Jusman said it was estimated to cost about Rp19.3 trillion and cover railway operations in the Jabodetabek (Jakarta-Bogor-Depok-Tangerang-Bekasi) region, Java, and a few provinces in Sumatra such as North Sumatra, West Sumatra, and the southern part of Sumatra.

In parts of Sumatra, the revitalization would include rehabilitation of bridges, roads, and other infrastructure facilities including the building of a tunnel through the Bukit Barisan mountain range at Indarung.

In Java revitalization efforts would be focused on increasing the capacity of services to keep up with the constant growth in the number of train passengers and of container and other goods transportation.

"It is estimated that by 2010 the number of people moving within the Jabodetabek region daily will reach 22 million. It has been decided that a separate company needs to be set up to serve the needs of that number of commuters in a better way," Jusman said.

The revitalization program would be implemented by a national team to be overseen by the Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs.

Vice President Jusuf Kalla at the meeting asked the management of state-owned railway company PT KA to concentrate on efforts to improve its image. "The safety of raiwlay travel must be improved and train passengers` comfort guaranteed," Kalla said.

The meeting at the vice president`s office was also attended by Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs Boediono, State Enterprises Minister Sofyan Jalil, National Development Planning Minister Paskah Suzetta and Industry Minister Fahmi Idris.(*)
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