Safe Travels During Mudik

Charles Vincent, Rob Daniel & Moray McLeish

Jakarta Globe – 24 July 2014


According to the Ministry of Transportation, this year over 27 million Indonesians will perform the unique annual tradition deeply engrained in Indonesian culture — mudik .

This is an increase of 6.9 percent from last year, attributed to the rising migrant population settling in urban areas for better opportunities. Mudik, which means “going home”, has been a practice for centuries stemming from the lifestyle of Indonesia’s ancestors in moving and settling elsewhere for better fortune. In recent history, mudik has become synonymous with traveling back home ahead of the Idul Fitri celebration. It is an opportunity to revitalize family relationships, renew social ties and spiritually generate vitality through visiting their hometowns. For many, the happiness of a family reunion can only be enjoyed on the day of Idul Fitri. So the desire to make the journey can be overwhelming.

The mudik journey is typically extensive, expensive and exhaustive, involving long queues, overloaded vehicles, traffic jams and frayed nerves. These inconveniences are further exacerbated by the likelihood of accidents, with over 3,000 accidents and 686 deaths reported in the 2013 mudik period alone. Associated damage costs amounted to Rp 7.5 billion ($652,000) in 2012, a 220 percent increase on 2011.

Road accidents, injuries and fatalities are a serious problem worldwide, even in Europe, with its extensive infrastructure and high levels of road safety the death toll is approximately 92,000 people per year. In a WHO study “Global status report on road safety 2013”, about 1.24 million people die each year on the world’s roads and 91 percent of those fatalities occur in low-income and middle-income countries, even though these countries have approximately half of the world’s vehicles. Half of those fatalities on the world’s roads are “vulnerable road users”: pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists.

The worrying number of mudik accidents in Indonesia can be attributed to the pemudik mode of transport, infrastructure of routes used, the lack of safety measures and the desire to get home as quick as possible. These factors correlate with the risk factors associated with road accidents reported in the WHO study, and all these factors combined create larger vulnerability during the mudik period.

According to the Ministry of Transportation, 19.3 million pemudik are planning to travel by public transport this year, an increase of 3.83 percent. While this number is substantial and growing, it also means that almost 10 million pemudik will still be traveling by private vehicles.

The overwhelming majority of these pemudik earn below Rp 5 million a month and hence travel by the cheapest option — the motorcycle. This two-wheeled urban workhorse was not designed for long-distance travel, yet over 3 million motorcycles were mobilized during last year’s mudik period alone. The massive exodus of motorcycles onto the roads leads nearly double the risk of motorcycle-related accidents as a vulnerable road user, which account for 70 percent of total accidents in the mudik period.

Too many motorcycles on the road, coupled with drivers’ fatigue, is the leading cause of mudik accidents. To maximize their vacation days, pemudik often depart early and drive the long journey home with little rest. Another major contributing factor is the failure of vehicle owners to have their vehicles inspected for safety. Routine vehicle safety inspection is a mandatory requirement in many other countries, such as Malaysia and China where it is required every six months and annually respectively.

It is common for one motorcycle to carry multiple passengers, even as many as four passengers, often with young children. Furthermore, motorcycle passengers may ignore simple safety measures, such as wearing a helmet; preparing proper clothing for weather changes; or taking account of road conditions.

Roads, too, are impacted by the pressure of overcapacity. Mudik is synonymous with the migration of traffic congestion from major cities like Jakarta to other main rural roads of Indonesia. These popular routes which are often in poor condition to begin with become even more damaged, further increasing the accident rate.

In an effort to reduce the number of vehicles and accidents on roads, the Ministry of Transportation is investing Rp 38.5 billion this year for free mudik travel on buses, trains and ferries for 33,000 pemudik. Furthermore, major corporations will also be offering free mudik travel for 122,000 pemudik as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives. The police are also deploying over 6,000 mudik patrollers along popular routes such as Pantura, where there will be a police officer for every 200 meters.

These initiatives are very commendable, but unfortunately they are only temporary solutions. While mudik forms an annual stress test of Indonesia’s transport system, it highlights the larger problem that Indonesia’s mass transit system is neither sufficient nor sustainable.

Adequate supply of viable and affordable public transport would significantly reduce the risk of road traffic accidents, injuries and fatalities. Public transport would reduce the number of vulnerable road users, realizing and sustaining safe travel in the process as well as reducing the chance of fatalities on the road, which WHO reports is an 18.5 percent chance in Southeast Asia as opposed to 10.3 percent in Europe.

“The current state of Indonesia’s transport infrastructure and public transport system threatens to halt the country’s ambitions for sustainable economic growth with equity, or Green Growth,” says Rob Daniel, technical advisor in Sustainability and Climate Change at PwC Indonesia.

Recognizing this, the Coordinating Ministry of Economic Affairs announced a plan to invest $35 billion in infrastructure projects, which will start between 2014 and 2017.

For emerging countries like Indonesia, the challenge of ensuring sufficient levels of investment in transport infrastructure continues to be acute, and is compounded by the difficulty of attracting finance from the private sector. The key is creating an attractive environment for investment for selected projects with the highest impacts while managing the investment funds to avoid overspending.

“PwC’s “Transportation & Logistics 2030 Volume 2: Transport Infrastructure, which provides a global perspective on transport infrastructure and the issues of supply and demand, finance mechanisms, regional competitiveness and sustainability, can be used to improve Indonesia’s situation,” says Pieter Van Der Mheen, technical advisor in Supply Chain and Logistics at PwC Indonesia

A major consideration is getting the right infrastructure mix, which continues to be a challenge for many emerging and developed countries alike. Indonesia’s archipelago poses a particular challenge in connecting islands, and thus a multimodal transport infrastructure is necessary while taking account of specific regional and local needs. This would then need to be supported by sufficient spoke-hub feeder networks, where public transport utilizes transport hubs to allow passengers to transfer between different lines or transport modes.

Building a robust network of transport systems also involves prioritizing rural needs. With most growth in urban areas, it is not surprising that urban areas continue to attract most infrastructure investments. However, since half of Indonesia’s population lives in rural areas, better transport connectivity between urban and rural areas could reduce mudik traffic disorder and reduce the annual pemudik incidents and accidents.

In major cities like London, Singapore and Copenhagen, technology played an important element in improving traffic safety by reducing the number of incidents of bunching associated with traditional toll booths. The Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) system being trialled in Jakarta could be further implemented in Indonesia, automatically charge toll fees on cars using roads without causing backlogs. If the revenue from the pricing schemes were to be used towards building and improving Indonesia’s infrastructure, this could significantly help reduce fatalities further.

“Technology will be a part of the solution for the transport and infrastructure challenges for Indonesia’s current and future system,” says Vish Padmanabhan, technical advisor in Technology at PwC Indonesia.

Like mudik, Green Growth is a journey. There may be difficulties along the way, but the foresight and preparatory actions that we undertake can significantly shape the end result. There are many factors to be considered in creating and sustaining better transport systems in Indonesia, and we have a long way to go — but just like for the pemudik, both the journey and the destination can be rewarding.


Rob Daniel and Moray McLeish are technical advisors in Sustainability and Climate Change practice, and Charles Vincent is leader at PwC Consulting Indonesia.