State railway company Kereta Api Indonesia is claiming that the installation of hanging concrete balls above railroad tracks has been effective in deterring train rooftop riders.
The company last week began installing rows of concrete balls on chains perpendicular to the tracks, slightly higher than the height of train roofs.
“Thank God, from our monitoring so far, the roofs of the trains have been clean [from riders] after the concrete balls were put in place,” KAI spokesman Mateta Rizalulhaq said.
Following the success of the hanging of the concrete balls in select locations, the company plans to expand the number of points at which they will be installed.
Mateta dismissed accusations by rights groups that the concrete balls threatened the lives of those riding on train rooftops, saying the measure was in fact intended to protect lives by discouraging people from the dangerous act of riding on top of train cars.
“Roofs of trains are from the onset not designed to support people, and there have been many victims already,” he said, adding that those who sat on train roofs were in violation of a 2007 law that carries penalties of up to three months in jail and Rp 15 million ($1,700) in fines.
“So far, no one has been jailed or fined because of riding on train roofs. Therefore they are not deterred, as law enforcement is weak and the laws are ignored,” Mateta said.
He said excuses used by rooftop riders — including an often used justification that trains are typically too packed, leaving only rooftop space available — could no longer be tolerated.
“If it is too full, then wait for the next train. I know this is not ideal, but our capabilities are limited,” he said. Analysts have previously cited several motivations for the roof riding phenomenon, such as a lack of space on board trains, a wish to avoid paying the fare and the simple thrill of an open-air ride.
KAI has repeatedly tried to discourage the practice, also known as roof surfing. It has attempted other deterrent measures, such as fines and detention, dousing roof riders with colored water and lubricating rooftops with grease.
The latest effort consists of a row of concrete balls five to 10 centimeters apart, hanging across the railway track about 25 centimeters above trains.
However, on Saturday, Bekasi city station chief Eman Sulaiman said that some continued to ride the roofs, wearing motorcycle helmets or sliding down into the train cars as the row of concrete balls neared.