PNR extends train trips to Los Baños
SAN PEDRO CITY—The Philippine National Railways (PNR) has started test runs and clearing operations this week as it prepares for the opening next month of its south rail line to the university town of Los Baños in Laguna province.
The Los Baños station will be the 25th station of the Metro South Commuter Train that runs from Tutuban in Manila to Calamba City, also in Laguna.
Joseline Geronimo, PNR spokesperson, said two of the nine trains that the PNR purchased from the state-owned Indonesian firm PT Industri Kereta Api (PT Inka) were scheduled to arrive early next month in time for the scheduled launch of the new station.
Commuters from Los Baños, where the University of the Philippines maintains a campus, were ecstatic to see a train on trial run on Wednesday.
Resident Jeremy Deanon said train services would help ease problems in public transportation from Laguna to Metro Manila.
Geronimo said another round of inspection by PNR engineers to check the existing tracks and facilities would continue on Friday.
But the 65-kilometer test run from Manila up to that part of the railway in front of the International Rice Research Institute in Los Baños was not one without a hitch.
Geronimo said the PNR train, which can carry 83 passengers and used only for inspections, returned with “scratches” caused by some structures encroaching on the tracks.
The PNR’s primary concern, she said, is to clear illegally built structures and informal settlers along the railway.
Geronimo said the tracks should be clear of any structure 15 meters on each side to ensure safety. For now, the PNR said it would clear those inside the “danger zone” or the structures within 6 m on each side of the railway.
“We understand that we cannot just simply drive away [these families] so [clearing would be] at least for those within the danger zone,” she said in a telephone interview on Thursday.
Geronimo said the PNR had long been coordinating with the National Housing Authority for the relocation of settlers along the tracks.
“Our concern is their safety and this [project] is for everybody’s mobility,” she said.
The PNR, in 2014, reopened the Calamba station as the government announced its bid to revive sections of the 478-km south rail that extends to Bicol region.
The more than a century-old PNR system is the oldest in Southeast Asia.
Last year, the PNR purchased six diesel multiple unit trains (P1.071 billion each) and three diesel hydraulic locomotive trains (P1.3 billion each) from PT Inka.
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