Thursday, 8 November 2012

LATEST: Bicol Express delayed again

A PNR coach …. Derailed again. - Photo courtesy

LEGAZPI CITY: The much-awaited train travel to this city from Manila has been suspended. 

Chances are, it will be delayed for another two months.

Philippine National Railway (PNR) general manager Junio “June” Ragragio said during the regular Regional Development Council meeting early last month it would resume its operation the last week of October or the first week of November following the completion of the 40-meter long Travesia bridge in Guinobatan town, 22 kilometers from Legazpi.

The so-called Bicol Express train had not serviced Legazpi for the past six years.

Ragragio said the expected train travel to Legazpi starts the regular Manila – Legazpi travel operation of the once famous Bicol Express.

Albay Gov Joey Sarte Salceda who presided at the RDC meeting hailed the PNR management, saying the much-awaited Bicol Express operation to Legazpi was a big economic booster. 

He added the train operation “should not be left behind” by the national government in its modernization program.

Legazpi City Mayor Geraldine Rosal said the much-awaited train arrival, however, was aborted when a train was derailed in Sariaya town as a result of bad weather.

PNR spokesman Paul Dequiros said it may take two months to complete the repair of the damage caused by the incident on the bridge, some stations, and the washed-out embankment.

Before the Sariaya incident, the PNR train had already been servicing Ligao City in Albay almost six years after Typhoon Reming devastated the area in November 2006.

Residents along railroad tracks in Legazpi and nearby Daraga town, however, were skeptical about the resumption of the train’s operation, citing two fatal incidents.   

One involved a man who was crushed to death while resting inside his car parked at the railroad near the family residence in Legazpi.  Late last month a resident in Polangui town was crushed to death while crossing the railway. 

A Legazpi City official who asked not to be named for lack of authority to talk said the PNR modernization program that would include a local Legazpi-Naga City operation similar to the Light Rail Transit may not prosper in the region.

The source said trains plying the Bicol route particularly Albay, a disaster-prone area, could not traverse the tracks which are often destroyed by floods. 

They said Typhoon Reming inflicted heavy damage on PNR tracks, with mudflow burying the tracks in barangay Busay, Daraga town. 

He said informal settlers also congest railroad tracks, which deters the PNR rehabilitation and modernization program.

In 2006, then-Albay Cong. Joey Sarte Salceda asked the government to relocate the regional center from Legazpi City to Naga City, saying his province was a disaster-prone area.

Salceda made the recommendation when he was a speaker in a commencement exercise of a local university.

PNR said some 50,000 squatter-families reside along the railroad tracks from Legazpi to Calamba, Laguna.

The presence of illegal settlers along the route poses a threat to the rehabilitation and modernization of the PNR.

Relocation of the squatters would cost P12 billion at P250,000 per family. The PNR said it did not have the money to implement it.

Ragragio said the PNR operation in Bicol was not making money yet but the rehabilitation continues. 

He said PNR’s rehabilitation and modernization program includes the operation of the 90-kilometer Legazpi–Naga route similar to the LRT in Metro Manila.

At the Legaspi-Daraga railroad sites alone, squatters already live very close to the railways. 

The space is just enough to allow a train to squeeze itself through. – Business Mirror

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