Transport in Indonesia


All transport modes play a role in Indonesia’s transport system and are generally complementary rather than competitive. Road transport is the predominant mode, accounting for about 70 percent of freight ton-km and 82 percent of passenger km. There are four unconnected railway networks in Java and Sumatra dedicated primarily to transport bulk commodities and long-distance passenger traffic. Sea transport is extremely important for economic integration and for domestic and foreign trade. It is well developed, with each of the major islands having at least one significant port city. The role of inland waterways is relatively minor and is limited to certain areas of Eastern Sumatra and Kalimantan. The function of air transport is significant, particularly where land or water transport is deficient or non-existent, and well established, based on an extensive domestic airline network where all major cities can be reached by passenger plane.

Roads and Highways

The total length of roads in 2004 reached about 340,000 km; out of which, 34,628 km were under the state responsibility; 649 km toll roads, 37,164 km under provincial responsibility; and the rest, 266,564 km under district responsibility. Indonesia roads Of the total road length, 58 percent is paved. The national road network is in good condition with 95 percent paved and 81 percent in good and fair condition. The provincial road network is also predominantly in good or fair condition. The district rural and urban roads are only 50 percent in reasonable condition. Densely populated Java, with 7 percent of Indonesia’s land area and 62 percent of its population, accounts for 27 percent of the classified road network. At the other end of the spectrum, Maluku and Papua, with 23 percent of the land area and only 2 percent of population, account for 7 percent of the network. Indonesia’s first toll road was opened in 1978 and placed under the management of the state-owned toll road company, Jasa Marga which now has overall responsibility for some 515 km of toll roads. Around 460 km of which are on the island of Java. Since 1987, all proposed toll road projects have been required to be offered to private investors, and so far some 30 percent of the network in operation has been developed by private consortia. The number of motor vehicles registered by the State Police was 19 million in 1999 (excluded Timor Timur) and 27 million in 2003. The motor vehicles in 2003 consisted of 71 percent motorcycles, 13 percent passenger cars, 8 percent trucks, and 3 percent buses. Of the total 3.1 million motor vehicles assembled domestically about 90 percent were motorcycles.

Urban Transport

Before the 1997 crisis, major urban transport investments were undertaken. These included toll road developments involving public-private partnerships with significant local private investment. Many of these projects, which were implemented under Build, Operate, and Transfer (BOT) arrangements are located around the metropolitan cities in Java, such as Jakarta, Ciawi, Bogor, Cikampek, Karawang, Surabaya, and Malang. Rapid Bus ServiceDespite rapid infrastructure development in large urban areas, traffic congestion continues to hamper large cities like Jakarta, Bandung, Medan, Surabaya, and many satellite towns like Bogor, Bakasi, and Tangerang. Public transport, including buses, minibuses, and taxis, is commonly used despite poor public transport facilities. The city of Jakarta has implemented a Bus Rapid Transit system on several kilometers on key city route to help ease traffic congestion, particularly at peak times. Car ownership is increasing, following the liberalization of import motor vehicle rules. At least three million locally assembled motorcycles are added each year; transforming vehicular pollution in a serious problem for the largest cities, and a rapidly emerging one among the medium-size cities.

Rural Transport Indonesia rural transport

With more than 292,000 km, about 80 percent of the total length of the road network is presently under the responsibility of the local governments. Some 11 million people in remote communities remain without direct access to the all-season road network, and an additional 6 million people reported to lack any reliable connection to the motorized transport network. The process for identifying road network links to villages (desa) which are still not connected has not been clearly established.


Indonesia has four unconnected railway systems, one in Java, and three in Sumatra. The Java railway’s core passenger traffic is intercity with long distance services, such as Jakarta-Surabaya (820 km), and Jakarta-Yogyakarta (510 km); and medium distance services, such as Jakarta-Bandung (180 km), and Jakarta-Cirebon (200 km). The freight traffic moved by the Java railway consists mostly of petroleum fuel, fertilizer, cement, coal, and containers. The South Sumatra dominant traffic is coal, the West Sumatra railway carries mostly coal and cement, and the North Sumatra main traffic is crude palm oil. Rapid Bus ServiceThe total length of track in operation is 5,040 km of which Java is 3,700 km. The rail network is made of 1,067 mm gauge, and mostly singled tracked. Some sections in the Jakarta metropolitan region have been electrified to enable operation of suburban commuter services by electric railcars. The total fleet consists of 468 locomotives that include diesel electric and diesel hydraulic locomotives. The average fleet age is approximately 30 years old. Due to inadequate maintenance and lack of spare parts, the availability and reliability is low. Revenue contribution and traffic composition vary significantly among the four railway systems. The Java railway contributes about 75 percent of the Indonesian Railways revenues, with passenger transport accounting for 83 percent of the total. The South Sumatra Railway generates some 20 percent of total revenues, of which freight accounts for 90 percent. The West Sumatra and North Sumatra contribute only 2 percent and 3 percent of total revenues, of which freight accounts for 100 percent and 60 percent respectively.

Inland Waterways Indonesia Inland waterwaysThere are more than 10,000 km of navigable waterways among 50 river systems. Over half of these rivers are in Kalimantan and the rest in Sumatra. These were originally used mainly for long-haul transport. Most of the vessels and terminals on the inland waterways system are owned and operated by the private sector. Some infrastructure improvements have been carried out, like the construction of new wharves, dredging of river channels at several river ports, and installation of navigational aids. However, because of the high seasonal variation in the water level of many rivers, without further investment for improvement of crucial sections, the role of inland waterways is relatively minor, and limited to certain areas of Sumatra and Kalimantan.

Ports and Shipping Indonesia has some 300 public ports scattered over the archipelago. Of these, 43 are international liner service ports; the rest are feeder, and special ports, serving inter-island, lokal (small motorized vessels up to 250 dwt operating in short inter-island or coastal routes) and sailing vessels (small wooden hulled vessels which mainly depend on a combination of wind power and motor propulsion). The most important ports are Jakarta (Tanjung Priok), Surabaya, Semarang and Cirebon in Java; Belawan, Pandang, and Panjangon in Sumatra; Balikpapan, Banjarmasin, and Samarinda in Kalimantan; Ujung Pandang and Bitung in Sulawesi; Ambon in Maluku; and Sorong in Irian Jaya. Indonesia PortsJakarta, Surabaya, Belawan, and Ujung Pandang, the four largest ports, handle most of Indonesia’s export and import cargoes, except for special commodities such as crude oil, logs, timber, rubber, palm oil, and fertilizer which use specialized ports. Much of the domestic traffic originates or is destined to these four ports. Inter-island shipping is the prevailing means for distributing goods through the ports in Indonesia. The cargo volume carried by inter-island shipping services reaches over 300 million tons, far exceeding international trade volume. It is estimated that inter-island shipping accounts for 60 percent of the total sea borne cargo movement in the country. Especially, for remote islands like Sulawesi and others, the percentages of cargoes carried by inter-island shipping are even higher. About 14 million passengers a year are traveling by inter-island shipping. In remote islands a higher percentage of the total number of passengers is traveling by inter-island transport means. There are two distinct types of inter-island shipping services: ferry, and shipping services. Ferries are generally point-to-point services offered over a relatively short distance, typically between adjacent islands, and use ro-ro vessels that carry a mix of passengers, cars, and trucks. Whereas, shipping services are offered on more complex routes, commonly use lift-on lift-off vessels, and are mostly dedicated cargo services.

Air Transport

Indonesia ait travelAir transport is rapidly increasing; not only, driven by the insufficient water and land transport networks, but also because travel by air is the quickest way to get around the country’s thousands of islands, and for some areas, the only option. Indonesia has adopted the standards of the International Civil Aviation Organization with only minor variations, but the compliance with the standards is far from uniform. Indonesia’s sudden air transport development became possible by the collapse of the Suharto regime in 1998. Before 1999, there were five scheduled carriers and a few charter operators. In 2004, there were 23 scheduled airlines operating and 37 licenses had been issued. Air transport is growing rapidly, with air travelers doubling every three years primarily driven by the low fares. In 2003, 16 million trips were taken, compared with 6.6 million in 1999. Conservatively, the Directorate General of Air Communication estimated in 20 million the seats sold in 2004, which is 7 million more than in 1997.

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