Pricing and scheduling strategies essential to maximising use of South Sulawesi’s new railway line

A train on a railway in a station

A PAIR research team has presented data that provides insights into how much passengers and business would use a new rail line being built in South Sulawesi.


The transport, logistics and supply chain team also discussed how to increase freight train usage by encouraging the trade of other commodities, such as seaweed, and the need for better integration of governments’ data measurement systems.

The information was provided at a policy forum organised by the Australia-Indonesia Centre and the South Sulawesi Regional Development Planning and Research Agency (Bappelitbangda) to look at evidence that can help inform policy.

One of the challenges identified by the research team is how the track capacity can be shared efficiently between different users in order for all users to be served considering it will be a single-track rail line.

According to research co-lead Andreas Ernst, the solution is “like a giant jigsaw puzzle”. He showed the complexity of managing rail line schedules in a diagram which mapped out movement, or number of trips, in the north and south direction.


Train scheduling in a computerised program. credit: Prof. Andreas Ernst


The team has developed a computer program to deal with this challenge.

“Our software creates a plan and helps us to think about what we’re actually going to fit in and how we can make this work,” said Professor Ernst, from Monash University.

The findings of a survey on demand generation included that people are enthusiastic about using a train for travel but the ticket price should be carefully determined, and the response from a survey of 129 companies found that a willingness to pay is relatively low, aside from two cement companies which will use the service if the rate is acceptable.

The task of prioritisation between passenger services and freight is being considered by the South Sulawesi Light Rail Transit Management Office (BPKASS).

“Both are our priorities because the purpose of both services is that they’ll have a positive impact on the community”, said Agustina Slamet, head of the Railway Infrastructure Division.

The forum also heard of the City Master Plans that have been drafted for five locations to find the best ways to utilise the new railway and make sure it is supported. The plans cover Makassar, Maros, Pangkep, Barru and Parepare, and the research team recommended building transport infrastructure and facilities in the five regions to create rail hubs.

The research modelling has also found that the adoption of public transport depends on investment in ‘feeder services such as buses, or parking for private cars. During the forum, Ms Slamet provided images of rail stations to show how parking areas and a bus station were being included in the designs.


a design of facilities in train station
The infrastructure and facilities design of railway station. Credit: South Sulawesi Light Rail Transit Management Office (BPKASS)


Research co-lead Nyoman Pujawan from Institut Teknologi Sepuluh Nopember suggested that one idea to encourage passenger uptake would be to “invite public figures to ride the train for campaigns and outreach to the community.”

Professor Nyoman also raised the idea of a single card that provides all access so passengers could have a better experience of the intermodal transport facilities, something which is also being considered by the office in charge of light rail management.

The forum heard of the work being undertaken on how to choose the best locations for intermodal facilities, for commodities such as cement, rice and seaweed.

Research co-lead Siti Malkhamah from Universitas Gadjah Mada has been leading the work in this area and explained that the freight station location plan currently provides facilities for cement and the Pare-Pare Industrial estate called ‘KIPAS’ and she called for a future strategy to increase the use of freight trains by “harnessing the potential of other commodities such as rice and seaweed”.

“What steps need to be taken to create intermodal freight transport facilities with a more detailed study and the feasibility of such facilities,” she asked as a point of discussion.

Professor Malkhamah also discussed how the development of the railway line in Parepare is hindered by the geographical conditions of the region, requiring extremely careful planning, including assessing risk factors such as landslides.

Her points were backed by the representative from the South Sulawesi Light Rail Transit Management Office.

“From the geographical location of Parepare on the seaside which is quite hilly & is located in an earthquake-prone zone, the development plan for Parepare is still in the design review stage considering that several recent studies of existing designs are not compatible with these natural features,’ said Ms Slamet.

In the meantime, a shuttle bus service has been made available to accommodate transport to and from Parepare.

Professor Ernst also reminded the forum that the debate between passenger versus freight services does not have to be about choosing one over the other.

“You don’t have to choose only one, but not everything is going to fit, so some difficult choices have to be made. The question is, who’s going to be inconvenienced by this choice?” said Professor Ernst.

The forum provided a chance to present the latest findings and ignite discussion on important policy areas and the senior researchers are keen to continue with feedback from the stakeholders.

Image at top from the South Sulawesi Light Rail Transit Management Office.

Picture of Evelynd

Digital Content Producer
The Australia-Indonesia Centre

Picture of Marcia Isabella

The Australia-Indonesia Centre

Picture of Helen Brown

Head of Communications and Outreach
The Australia-Indonesia Centre

Picture of Kevin Evans

Indonesia Director
The Australia-Indonesia Centre