Bali governor pushes island rail system to replace discontinued public buses

Some train cars in Yogyakarta, Java. Photo: CEphoto, Uwe Aranas/Wikimedia Commons

Bali’s governor is pushing an electric rail network to replace the public bus system that he’s axed.

Province Governor Wayan Koster has asked that the operation of the Trans Sarbagita Bus system, which had an annual budget of IDR12 billion (US$789,828) a year, be put out to pasture, except for a single route that’s used by university students: the one going from Denpasar to the Udayana campus in Jimbaran.

The Trans Sarbagita, launched in 2011 connecting Denpasar, Badung, Gianyar, and Tabanan regencies, was meant to be a legacy of Koster’s predecessor, two-term governor I Made Mangku Pastika.

Koster has not hidden his disdain for the Sarbagita bus system, calling it “silly” and a money-waster. “The Sarbagita bus has no passengers. It’s a waste of budget,” he said.

Koster has lobbied Indonesia Minister of Transportation Budi Karya Sumadi and state-owned train manufacturer, PT Kereta Api Indonesia (KAI) for help getting the railroad transportation in Bali running.

The governor says he’d like Bali’s system to be better than what’s operating in Java.

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“The railway that we want to launch is not like in Bandung and Jakarta. It will be designed with a nice interior for the general public and tourists. I have been contacted by the director of PT KAI. I’ll give a presentation later. Wait for it, now we’re still busy,” Koster said on the sidelines of a press conference at the Bali’s Governor Offfice on Monday, as quoted by NusaBali.

Koster says the train planned for Bali would be an electric rail system, so as not to add to pollution levels. The network routes, however, are still under development.

“What is clear is that the train we are designing is environmentally friendly, because it will use electricity,” the Buleleng native explained.

In addition to the rail system, Bali Province’s other big project in the works includes a 1.9 kilometer  shortcut project connecting Wanagiri and Gitit Village in Buleleng in the form of a Denpasar-Gilimanuk toll road. 

Meanwhile, the chairman of the Bali House of Representatives, Commission III which is in charge of development and infrastructure, I Nengah Tamba says that he thinks the toll road is the priority over the rail system.

“I think the Denpasar-Gilimanuk toll road is the first priority. My community in Jembrana when going to Denpasar to sell coconut milk and other agricultural products, gets stuck in the traffic on the Tabanan-Denpasar line. Is it possible for them to make a train carrying cows, brining chickens, ducks, and coconut milk?” Tamba asked.

“When this toll road is realized, the Denpasar-Gilimanuk route will be smooth, not congested as it is now. I am sure the economy will grow in Jembrana,” Tamba said, as quoted by NusaBali.

Tamba added that he thinks the governor ought to prepare a study about the construction of a rail system in Bali, which would require expensive government land acquisition.

“I’m sure Governor Koster has thought about the study. We hope the legislature will be involved in the discussion and the study,” he added.

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