“We’ve tried just about everything [to get them to stop], but nothing seems to work. Maybe this will do it.”
Mateta Rizahulhaq, spokesman for Indonesia’s state-run railroad. The company is implementing a new scare tactic to discourage passengers from riding on the roofs of trains: suspending concrete balls the size of grapefruits that dangle just above the height of the train cars.
Train chiefs have tried many tactics to prevent people from riding on top of the train cars: spraying the roof riders with red paint, threatened them with dogs, put barbed wire on top of carriages and even sought the help of Muslim religious leaders to halt the deadly practice, all to no avail.
The railways that criss-cross Indonesia are the legacy of Dutch colonizers. But the system is crumbling, overcrowded and fraught with delays. Passengers choose to ride on the roof tops to escape the overcrowding in the carriages, particularly in the rush-hour, dodge paying fares, or simply to enjoy the breeze and the thrill of “train surfing.”
Mulyanto, 27, who travels from Bogor to Jakarta each day, thinks he will keep pushing his luck. “I think it could be really dangerous. But I don’t think it’ll last long. They’ve tried everything to keep us from riding … in the end we always win. We like it up there. It’s windy, really nice,” he said.