What do you think when you hear “Brexit”? If the withdrawal of the UK from the European Union comes to mind, you would be correct. However, in Indonesia, we have another “Brexit” – one that caused an immense traffic incident.
Brexit itself is the short name for “Brebes Exit” – a toll exit – located in Central Java Province. It was built in 2014 and opened in 2016, although only its first two sections. Since it is a part of the Trans Java toll road, it is meant to cut the time needed to go from one province to another province on Java Island.
Unfortunately, in the Eid Al-Fitr holiday in 2016 when a lot of people went to their homes in another city, the “effectivity” that should be the main feature on a toll road was no longer there; it suddenly vanished when a 16 kilometers traffic jam appeared. It was so long that everyone unfortunate to be inside the line could get out of their vehicles and have some snacks or just chill on the side of the road. Some said that the line lasted for around 12 hours! Although it depended on where your vehicle was, it was still extremely slow to move some centimeters ahead.
How could this incident be possible? There are two main factors: the massive intensity of private vehicles and the unprepared infrastructure. A huge number of people were travelling to another city and everyone wanted to be on the road for as little time as possible. Therefore, most people decided to take the toll road rather than the regular highway. Unfortunately, the massive amount of private vehicles was not supported by the infrastructure. The exit toll was near a market, which at that time was crowded with people buying some groceries for the celebrations. The payment itself was done manually by a person and, with the huge number of vehicles, it was a slow process.
Another factor that exacerbated the situation ironically came from the people who used the toll itself. A lot of people who were not patient enough to wait cut an improper way through. Because of that, other vehicles were affected, for they had to wait again and reposition its vehicle; this made organising the traffic jam a hard job for the police. In the end, this factor caused a gridlock situation, in which literally everyone could not move.
As a result, a lot of unfortunate vehicles were out of gas while they were waiting, which made the advancement even slower. Some people sold gas on the spot. However, they sold the gas multiple times the normal price; the price was about Rp50.000 per litre, significantly above the normal price of around Rp10.000. Therefore, people whose vehicles ran out of gas had to pay more.
Ironically, a lot of sellers also saw this incident as an opportunity to sell their goods and services, also with the higher price; from foods and beverages, until a walking toilet was available with some certain prices. People fed up with the situation bought something or hired the available goods and services. Therefore, it seemed that a market had suddenly appeared in the middle of the havoc.
After the incident, the government took some actions after evaluating the horrible result of the incident. The payment system of the toll road was transformed from a man-based to a card-based system which made it faster to perform. The trans-java toll is in its completion; the Brebes Exit toll remains operational and the traffic jam has not appeared again.