2,000 Trucks Stuck in Java Traffic Jam

MERAK

Truck drivers stuck in a massive traffic jam for more than a week said on Tuesday they had been forced to sell their belongings such as mobile phones to buy food.

In a graphic example of infrastructure bottlenecks in Southeast Asia’s biggest economy, the jam stretches for 11 kilometres and has ensnared some 2,000 lorries.

It has choked the flow of goods by road and ferry from Merak port in West Java to Bakauheni port in southeast Sumatra, a crossing that should take less than three hours but has stranded some drivers since February 21.

Hungry and tired drivers said they just wanted to go home and expressed fury at the government’s failure to ease traffic snarls that hamper trade and business across the sweeping archipelago, including the capital Jakarta.

“I’ve been stuck here for three days and I’m getting impatient. I’ve run out of money so I sold my mobile phone to buy food,” 35-year-old driver Surono said.

“This is the third time I’ve been stuck in a traffic jam here this month and I really don’t know what’s the cause.”

Another driver, 45-year-old Endin, said thieves had looted his vehicle while he was taking a nap.

“I was so tired of waiting I fell asleep. When I woke up, my wallet was gone. I’m hungry and tired. Please, I just want to go home,” he said.

Indonesia is a member of the Group of 20 rich and developing countries and has one of the fastest growing economies in the world, with output expected to top six percent this year.

Yet it is befuddled by red tape, mired in corruption and its ports, roads and airports are hopelessly inadequate for the pace of growth it hopes to sustain in coming years, according to investors and analysts.

The government last year announced plans to spend US$140 billion on infrastructure until 2014, more than half of which would have to come from the private sector.

As for truck drivers at Merak, officials said three extra ferries had been dispatched to clear the jam.

“Four more are on their way. The jam is slowly starting to ease and we’re continuing to monitor the situation,” Transport Ministry spokesman Bambang Ervan said.

“It was something we didn’t expect. There was a 10- to 17-percent jump in the number of trucks in January and February compared to the same period in previous years, due to more construction projects in Sumatra,” he added.

Eight of 30 ferries plying the route were docked for repairs, the spokesman explained.

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