The vintage PNR train ... time to modernize the coaches to boost passenger traffic.
By FLORENCIO P NARITO
LEGAZPI CITY: After an absence of six years, the Bicol Express of the Philippine National Railways (PNR) will soon resume its trip to this tourist city by the end of October or early November 2012, PNR General Manager Junio “Jun” Ragragio said in an exclusive interview here recently.
The PNR chief attended the Regional Development Council (RDC) meeting presided by Gov Joey Sarte Salceda and Director Romeo Escandor, the chairman at the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) regional office in Barangay Arimbay, this city.
At the RDC meeting, Ragragio briefed the council on the status of the railroad rehabilitation from Ligao City to Legazpi City.
He also appealed to his fellow Bicolanos, particularly the local government executives concerned to help the PNR clear the railroad tracks of squatters.
Gov Salceda hailed the return of the Bicol Express to Legazpi City adding that the modern railway system will further boost the economy of the Bicol Region.
“RDC would like to remind the central government that a modern railway system as demanded by the south rail including its extension to Matnog, Sorsogon is one of the highest priority projects for economic and social development of the Bicol Region,” Salceda said.
In a brief interview shortly after the RDC meeting, Ragragio said that according to his engineers, the Bicol Express is expected to reach Legazpi by the end of this month.
“However, train operations will probably take two more weeks to prepare the stations and ticketing booths,” Ragragio said.
Asked if the rehabilitation of the railroad from Ligao to Legazpi has already been completed, the PNR GM said the Travesia bridge in Guinobatan, Albay had already been finished.
“We’re busy laying the wooden ties (travieza) imported from China,” he revealed.
He disclosed that the repair of the 400-meter bridge in Bongalon, Daraga, Albay has also been completed.
At present, the Bicol Express has a daily trip to Manila from Ligao City but only once a day.
It takes 13 hours to reach Manila by train, Ragragio said.
The advantage of taking the train for Metro Manila is that the passenger can relax and move about freely because PNR coaches are spacious and comfortable, he said.
“If the railroad has been fully rehabilitated we are planning to use commuter trains like that of LRT between Legazpi and Naga,” Ragragio said.
In another development, lawyer Romeo Escandor, NEDA Regional Director and RDC vice chairman, proposed that the RDC should conduct a railway development summit to discuss issues, strategies, and plans to develop the railway system in Bicol. – Bicol Mail