Thursday, 28 February 2013

EXTRA: Commuter train test run shows problems

A Bicol-bound PNR train ... Problematic operations bugged by competitions from bus and hauling truck companies. - Websitepic


NAGA CITY: The commuter train test run of the Philippine National Railways (PNR) on Monday from this city to Legazpi City has shown problems that require immediate attention before its planned regular run next month.

Passing through 102 km railways from Naga Station to Legazpi Station, the commuter train has to maneuver carefully amidst cluster of communities with structures almost touching the moving trains while several crossings still need keepers to warn vehicles and pedestrian of the incoming train.

But one major problem is the competitiveness of its operation against buses and passenger vans plying the route Naga City-Legazpi City with only two roundtrips daily and the duration of each trip.

While the train ride is cheaper at P82 against buses and passenger vans charging P180, the commuter train travel is 45 minutes longer than the latter means of transportation. The frequency of trips is another problem with vans and buses leaving the terminal every 15 minutes.

Constancio Toledano, area manager, revealed that the existing commuter train operation from Sipocot town to Naga City that started during the Arroyo administration has always been a losing operation with 70% subsidized by the central office of the PNR.

But Toledano said the advantage of commuter train against the traditional means of transportation is that the train accommodates more passengers and cargos.

Another one is the problem with informal settlers living within the 15-meter right of way and 7.5-meter danger zone that put at risk the lives and limbs of people living there. Within the Bicol area, from the boundary town of Del Gallego to Legazpi City, there are some 50,000 families of informal settlers that still need to be relocated.

Maria Lourdes S. Cañeda, clearing consultant, disclosed that so far the PNR has only relocated 51 families in Naga City and it will still take a long way to clear the 15m right of way from both sides of the railways.

Cañeda said the PNR is working to hasten the clearance of railways with structures within the 7.5M danger zone that are still habituated by thousands of families from Naga City to Legazpi City.

She said the total clearance of the 15m right of way is a tall order because of the Urban Development Housing Act 7279 that protects the rights of informal settlers.

Cañeda said it requires collective efforts between the National Housing Authority (NHA), local government units and other agencies to relocate informal settlers out of the 15m right of way.

During the test run, it took five hours to reach Legazpi City from Naga City because rail police had to serve notice of clearance to families and village officials.

As the train traveled the 102-km. stretch from Naga City to Legazpi, the Bicol Mail noted a cow tied to the rail was bumped off, a dog almost run over, an old woman almost hit by the incoming train, vehicles and domestic items left very near the tracks, people seemed unfazed by the dangers and structures almost touching the moving train. – Bicol Mail


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