Despite widespread criticism, state railway company Kereta Api Indonesia is installing three more sets of potentially deadly hanging concrete balls in various locations in Bekasi that will aim to discourage train roof surfers.
The first barrier, located near the Bekasi city train station, was erected on Tuesday and was immediately condemned by the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM), which said the move would lead to violations of human rights as the balls had the potential to kill.
Bekasi city station chief Eman Sulaiman said the effectiveness of the first barrier had prompted the company’s plans to install three more next week.
The new locations are near the Tambun, Cikarang and Lemah Abang stations. Eman said most of the roof surfers boarded the train at Cikarang, 48 kilometers east of Jakarta.
The first barrier consists of a row of 20 concrete balls about 10 centimeters apart hanging across the railway track at 25 centimeters above the train’s roof level.
Eman said the three new barriers would have bigger balls dangling five centimeters apart. Each will weigh three kilograms and measure 15 centimeters across.
“Roof surfers will hit the balls, and the balls are enough to crack someone’s head,” he said.
Eman said that despite the deterrents, there were still those willing to risk their lives, protecting their heads with helmets.
“But even before the train reaches the barrier most of the [roof surfers] jump down and get inside the train,” he said. “When they see the balls, they all chicken out.”
All four barriers will be placed along the Jakarta-Cikampek line, which connects the capital with cities east of Jakarta.
On the north-south Bogor-Jakarta line, many are still riding roofs during the morning and afternoon rush hours. There are no barriers on that line or on the Jakarta-Serpong line, which runs to the west.
In Bogor, some roof surfers were seen just after the Cilebut station. Their number increased after passing the Bojong Gede and Citayam stations.
Depok Lama station chief Dwi Putranto said he had tried to delay trains from leaving unless the roof riders stepped down, but that had only succeeded in making the paying passengers inside the train frustrated.
KAI has repeatedly tried to discourage people from the dangerous practice of riding on the roof of trains. It has threatened measures such as fines and detention, doused roof riders with colored water and lubricated the roof with grease.
Transportation observer Joko Setijowarno from the Soegijapranata Catholic University Semarang said KAI could just modify its trains to have smooth surfaces, so that there were no nooks or crannies onto which the surfers could climb.
Analysts have previously given several reasons for people riding on train roofs such as a lack of space on board the train, a wish to avoid paying a fare and the thrill of a joyride.
Additional reporting by Antara