The current situation at the East Brebes exit on the Trans-Java Toll Road reflects the overall improvement in traffic conditions during the annual Idul Fitri exodus over the past few years. (Antara Photo/Oky Lukmansyah)

Indonesia May Have Resolved Its 'Brexit' Conundrum

BY :DION BISARA & MIKAEL NIMAN

JUNE 04, 2019

Jakarta. A toll gate in Central Java, named after Britain's efforts to leave the European Union, may have gained notoriety during the 2016 Idul Fitri holiday exodus, when massive traffic congestion over several days resulted in many travelers literally dying from exhaustion.

However, no incidents have so far been reported during this year's holiday rush, with millions of Indonesians on the move to meet their extended families and celebrate Idul Fitri, marking the end of Ramadan.

The current situation at the East Brebes exit – widely known as "Brexit" – of the Trans-Java Toll Road reflects the overall improvement in traffic conditions during the annual exodus over the past few years.

In one of the largest annual movements of people – akin to Lunar New Year in China and the Ganges pilgrimage in India – the event, known as mudik, sees more than 33 million Indonesians leaving urban areas for smaller towns and villages across the country.

Indonesians had grown accustomed to expecting at this time of year, news of massive congestion and deaths of travelers caught in traffic jams, as small roads in rural areas struggle to cope with the sudden influx.

At "Brexit" in 2016, traffic jams extended for nearly 20 kilometers, resulting in thousands of motorists getting trapped for countless hours, causing the death of 17 travelers who had no immediate access to medical care.

This year, there was barely any traffic at the notorious toll gate.

Officials even allowed some travelers to take selfies in front of the empty gates without having to worry about disturbing the traffic flow.

"Over the past two years, the toll gate has no longer been the center of congestion," one official named Ian said on Monday.

A view of the seemingly deserted East Brebes toll gate in Central Java. (SP Photo/Mikael Niman)
A view of the seemingly deserted East Brebes toll gate in Central Java. (SP Photo/Mikael Niman)

Waskita Karya, the toll road operator, had also implemented additional measures at the exit, such as installing 39 automatic gates and providing several electronic money top-up locations along the Kanci-Batang Toll Road that leads to the toll gate.  

The fact that "Brexit" is no longer the final exit on the Trans-Java Toll Road also contributes to the improved situation.

President Joko "Jokowi' Widodo's relentless push for state-owned enterprises and private companies to complete the 10-year development of the Trans-Java Toll Road paid off early this year. The 1,167 kilometers between Merak on the west coast of Java and Banyuwangi in the east can now be traversed through a massive network of 18 major freeways. 

'Killing Mudik Tradition'

The Jokowi administration has also gone to great lengths to ensure this year's Idul Fitri exodus proceeds as smoothly as possible. For one, it announced a weeklong holiday between June 3 and 7, giving travelers ample time to journey home.

State energy firm Pertamina has set up many mobile fuel kiosks – motorcycles equipped with canisters – and fuel stations to ensure no motorists are left stranded, as this can cause traffic jams.

Toll road operators also implemented one-way traffic on sections of the Trans-Java Toll Road between Cipularang in West Java and Semarang in Central Java.

The lack of traffic congestion so far this year has prompted many to shout out praises to Jokowi for "killing mudik tradition," sharing their experiences on social media under hashtags such as #MudikLancarBanget and #Mudik2019.

Rhenald Kasali, a professor in economics and business at the University of Indonesia, said this year's congestion-free Idul Fitri exodus has been decades in the making.

"Overall, going home this time is indeed very different. Very smooth, much safer and more enjoyable. The toilets are clean, the rest areas are quite large, the police are also much more responsive and friendly," Rhenald said in a statement on Tuesday.

"The dream that the road would no longer be congested and no longer claim as many victims has been realized," he said.

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