Dangerous railway bridges


Some railway bridges of the Philippine National Railways (PNR) might give way to the weight of the trains because the ties are made of softwood instead of the required hardwood.

This would mean derailing train schedules or trains falling into rivers.

A tie is one of the transverse supports systems to which railroad rails are fastened to keep them in line.

It cushions, distributes and transmits the stresses of the traffic through the ballasts of the roadbed (as defined by Webster’s Third New International Dictionary).

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I was furnished photos of the new ties installed by the PNR under the new management.

The photos show long cracks in the new ties.

I also have copy of a report to PNR General-Manager Junio M. Ragragio pointing to the “alarming” condition of the railway bridges because of  major cracks in the ties.

The report reads as follows:

“I received a letter through e-mail from Engineer Emmanuel Tolentino pertaining to the delivered creosoted larch bridge ties which are defective and as per his letter, 50% of installed bridge ties have longitudinal split and 25% on the stockpile are already defective.

“With this alarming situation, it is strongly suggested that we again have to bring this up with the GM (general manager) so he can advise the supplier pertaining to the deliveries to PNR.”

It was signed by Divina Gracia D. Dantes, assistant department manager of the PNR engineering department.

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The new ties were bought by the PNR under Ragragio’s watch for P49 million.

The documents for the purchase, according to my sources at the PNR, provided for materials made of a species of hardwood, specifically yakal.

But Ragragio, for reasons of his own, approved the delivery of a softwood species (larchwood from China), my sources said.

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The change of material for the ties (from hardwood species to softwood species) did not have the approval of the PNR board of directors.

This makes it highly irregular and illegal, according to the PNR sources.

The sources said that because of the highly questionable way of procurement, senior managers of the PNR refused to accept and use the larchwood from China.

They also refused to sign the disbursement vouchers to cover the payment for the inferior material, the sources added.

What is very alarming is that most of the wooden ties had already been installed on the railway bridges despite the protest put up by PNR senior managers.

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This column exposed this irregularity at the PNR in the Oct. 27, 2012, issue of the Inquirer.

But the Commission on Audit (COA) and the Office of the Ombudsman have apparently not acted on the exposé.

If they did, why were the defective ties installed and paid for?

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God forbid there would be an accident caused by derailment or a train falling into a river as a result of defective ties!

Many train passengers could be killed or injured.

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