105 days of ‘mourning’: Commuters’ viral action leads to Bekasi Station escalator being fixed


A woman walks on Jan 31, 2024 past a mock funeral wreath commemorating the 100th day of an out-of-service escalator at Bekasi railway station in the West Java city. - Antara

JAKARTA: For more than three months, millions of Indonesian eyes were focused on social media, but not on content related to the 2024 election: on daily posts urging authorities to repair an escalator that had been out of service for over 100 days at Bekasi railway station in Bekasi, West Java.

The hype over the broken escalator began with daily updates from local resident Mega, a 26-year-old social media specialist who commutes to her Jakarta workplace by train. She uploaded a picture of the broken escalator every day to her account (@PernebangRoket) on X, formerly Twitter, demanding that it be repaired.

The out-of-service escalator was one of several connecting the station’s entrance on the ground floor with the concourse on the second floor

Some people might not have had a problem about climbing up and down the stairs next to the broken escalator, but other transit users such as the elderly, people with disabilities and those lugging around heavy suitcases might not have the strength or agility to do so, Mega says.

“It’s our right as consumers. Even though I only pay Rp 3,000 [20 US cents] for the [Commuter Line] train, it’s still not free,” she told The Jakarta Post recently

She had been uploading photos of the broken escalator since last October in an effort to voice her concerns, making sure to tag the official accounts of state-owned railway company PT Kereta Api Indonesia (KAI), the parent company of the Commuter Line rail service.

The initial responses she received from KAI’s account administrators merely told her to wait until the escalator was repaired.

“Somehow, their response was always the same over time, so I tried to be consistent in tweeting every day to see how long I needed to keep posting until they fixed it,” Mega said.

Then, her daily posts about the broken escalator started gaining the attention and support from other social media users, who shared their frustrations over broken escalators and elevators at other train stations.

On Jan 31, the 100th day after Mega started tweeting, she banded together with other commuters to place a mock funeral wreath at the broken escalator bearing the message: “Condolences for the demise of the Bekasi Station escalator, from the people of Bekasi”.

The group also placed next to the wreath a sign shaped like a tombstone with the message, “RIP Bekasi Station escalator”, and took photos of the mock memorial, with some posing as if in prayer. The commuters’ creative protest was intended to “send a message to the relevant authorities to provide better public transit services”, Mega said, and “to show that we’re not joking about demanding for our rights as public transit passengers”.

The following day, the Transportation Ministry’s Rail Transportation Director General Mohamad Risal Wasal visited the station to inspect the broken escalator. Risal then vowed to repair the escalator soon, not later than mid-February, according to a statement issued after his inspection visit.

The directorate general’s spokesperson Anggie Dian said separately that authorities were still waiting for the parts to fix the escalator, Kompas.id reported on Feb 1. On Feb 6, the 105th day since Mega began her serial tweet, she posted a picture of maintenance crew fixing the escalator, and the following morning, other users tweeted that the escalator was finally working again.

“I was very touched. Finally, after posting for more than 100 days, it all paid off,” Mega said. While she expressed appreciation for the authorities’ statement that the escalator would be repaired immediately, Mega also said she hoped they would be more transparent and detailed in their communication to train users about broken transit facilities.

The escalator at Bekasi Station is just one of dozens of out-of-service facilities at train stations in Greater Jakarta. An escalator connecting the concourse and platforms at Palmerah Station in Central Jakarta that had been under maintenance since November only started working again recently.

Internet users have also reported that escalators and elevators at Cikarang Station in Bekasi, Duri Station in West Jakarta and Jatinegara Station in East Jakarta have been out of service for more than a day.

According to Yusa Permana, the Jakarta head of the Indonesian Transportation Society (MTI), several factors such as escalators’ carrying capacity and regular maintenance and inspections, could contribute to facilities breakdowns and long repair times.

"If the procurement of escalators and elevators is done outside the railway operator’s authority, by a local administration for example, [this] would be a challenge for the operator to act immediately” in response to broken facilities, he added. - The Jakarta Post/ANN

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Indonesia , escalator , Bekasi

   

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