The shape of the world a generation from now will be influenced far more by how we communicate the values of our society to others than by military or diplomatic superiority. William Fulbright, 1964

Friday, March 10, 2006


Flawed planning has created some weird anomalies: For example it usually takes longer to drive from central Jakarta to Soekarno-Hatta Airport than it does to fly from the airport to Surabaya.
Though traffic congestion in the East Java capital is serious it's not quite up to Jakarta standards. Not yet. Just wait till Surabaya's new international airport terminal is opened. Duncan Graham explains:
For the last couple of years commuters in Surabaya have watched with awe the construction of a flyover at the city's southern gate.
Great pillars were speedily hammered into the soil. Huge concrete girders were swung into place with precision.
Disruption to the traffic and trains beneath was minimal. In seemingly record time the job was done and the flyover linked smoothly into Surabaya's exit toll road.
Before leaving workers added the finishing touches; lights, drains, white lines ... and a boom.
Just as well, for this is a bridge going nowhere.
Unless there's a sudden resolution to a very tricky problem and some accelerated roadwork, when President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono comes to open the new terminal sometime later this year he'll be presiding over an incomplete project.
The Juanda International Airport terminal on the north side of the runway will be the pride of East Java, a fitting entrance statement to the province. It's a beautiful, spacious building. The magnificent multi-colored frescoes and ceilings reflect the art of the Majapahit kingdom 700 years ago.
The tiled floors and gardens are a real delight. Colors match and blend. The stamp of good design is almost everywhere, a tricky accomplishment in a building whose function is to get people in and out.
As a tribute to the skills and talents of Indonesian workers, this will be a showpiece grand.
Whether outside agencies like ticket sellers, check-in staff, Immigration and Customs respect the ambience is another matter.
Keeping the place uncluttered and clean will be a major challenge.
The present terminal on the south side of the runway is overcrowded, inefficient, dirty and unsafe. Many facilities are a disgrace. Staff fumbling at filthy keyboards on computer systems which often crash give the flyer little confidence. If the check-ins are this bad, what's aircraft maintenance like?
The immigration hall has no provision for separate arrivals. Unlike Soekarno-Hatta, workers returning from abroad and being processed as a group are mixed with individual travellers creating long delays.
There's no desk for business travellers using APEC cards as in Bali and Jakarta, so they have to buy tourist visas. The taxi hire system is a dog's breakfast of confusion and security is often lax. The old terminal was flooded earlier last month after heavy rain. The site is only 2.6 meters above sea level.
Hopefully all this will be a bad dream once the new terminal is blessed. No more dashing to busses in the rain, no dodging service trucks in a rush across the blazing bitumen, no more saturated baggage from several aircraft stacked on one carousel.
Eleven air bridges will deliver passengers into aircraft and the terminal with their feet dry and skins cool and white.
Engineers from the Directorate General of Air Communications who didn't want to be identified, said all should be ready by May -- except the access road. This was planned as an extension of the toll road and is an integral part of the terminal development.
The idea was to provide a speedy short-cut bypassing the current 20-kilometer road journey from city to airport. But a failure to secure land has left a 500-metre gap between flyover and the airport access road.
The landowners are said to be asking Rp 2 million (US$215) per square metre; the government says it is worth Rp 400,000 per square metre and negotiations have been underway for years.
The new road also cuts between a kampong and farmers' land -- another issue that will have to be resolved or there is likely to be conflict between commuters with a deadline and goats with an appetite.
So until the problem is resolved all traffic will have to use the existing congested roads to reach the old terminal, and then make a circuitous track round the airfield to the new buildings.
Expect traffic jams and extended delays. Surabaya is catching up with Jakarta.
Civil aircraft started using the military air base at Juanda in 1964. In 1990 the airport became an international gateway.
Planning for the new terminal started in 1978. The master document was completed in 1995 and work started in 2001.
Much of the money has come through a soft loan from Japan totaling Rp 260,000 million (US$28 million) lent at 1.3 per cent interest. Government contributions total Rp 140 billion.
The work includes a new control tower, apron and taxiways, but not another runway. A new cargo terminal will be able to handle 120,000 tons of freight a year.
The old terminal buildings are expected to be renovated and used by the military.
The facilities are designed to cope with five million domestic passenger movements a year and one million international passengers, making Juanda the nation's second-biggest air transport hub.
These numbers are close to those now using the present terminal so there'll soon be a need for expansion. But when planning began almost three decades ago who could have foreseen the birth of low-cost carriers opening a huge new market? A jet setter was once a synonym for the elite.
No longer.
There are currently direct flights from Juanda to Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Brunei, Hong Kong and Guangzhou in Canton, China. Attempts to start a scheduled direct service to Australia collapsed after the economic crisis of 1998.
(First published in The Jakarta Post 3 March 2006)


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