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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 June 2007, 09:06 GMT 10:06 UK
Jakarta begins river boat service
By Lucy Williamson
BBC News, Ciliwung river, Jakarta

Passengers disembark from a ferry along the harbour front in Singapore after arriving from Indonesia's nearby Batam island, 25 April 2007
Initially, the ferry will only run at the weekends
A new river boat service has been launched in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, to try to improve the city's growing congestion problems.

The move is part of a plan by the Jakarta governor to make public transport easier to use, and to clean up the area around the Ciliwung river.

But there is scepticism over how much difference it will actually make.

On the dockside, a party was laid on for the first passengers of the new ferry service.

Dozens of uniformed officials packed onto two small boats made the 2-km (1.25-mile) journey up the river.

Cleaning up the river

Space on the new ferries is very limited - there are only 25 seats on each boat.

This is an initial step, with all its shortcomings, but, as you can see, this waterway can bring many benefits
Pak Prisotono, Jakarta's deputy head of transport
But the governor has high hopes for this new project. He wants it to help join up Jakarta's patchy public transport system, providing a quick link between bus stops and train stations for example.

And city officials are also hoping that running a ferry service on the Ciliwung river will help clean up the area.

Many slums lie along the banks of the waterway and parts of the river are clogged with rubbish.

The deputy head of transport for the city, Pak Prisotono, says the authorities are hoping to regenerate the area and boost tourism.

"This is an initial step, with all its shortcomings, but, as you can see, this waterway can bring many benefits," he said.

"For example, the river has already become a bit cleaner and we are starting to see a culture of cleanliness."

The ferry launch, 6 June 2007
It is hoped the ferries will boost tourism

"Social life along the river has changed," he added. "Before, you saw lots of scavengers, lot of unwanted activities. There used to be many sex workers. But now the place looks in order."

Only 2% of Jakartans use public transport at the moment. Car users, meanwhile, are growing at a rate of 10% a year.

Unless something is done, analysts say, the city will become completely gridlocked in the next few years.

But the new boat service will only run at peak times on weekends, until private companies can be found to expand the scheme.

The chances of it making an impact on Jakarta's enormous congestion problems are slim.

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