Resumption of Bicol Express derailed
NAGA CITY—The reopening of the Philippine National Railways (PNR) service between Manila and Naga City will be postponed to the first quarter of 2017 because the repairs needed by the rail line won’t be completed before the original Dec. 15 target date, transport officials said on Saturday.
PNR officer in charge Joseline Geronimo said it would take more time to remove all obstructions such as houses and other structures built on the railway by informal settlers, trees and grasses, and animals that cross the tracks.
Geronimo made the decision after a 14-hour inspection run on Friday over the more than 300-kilometer line from the Tutuban terminal in Manila to the crumbling station in Ragay, Camarines Sur.
Transportation Assistant Secretary Cesar Chavez announced last week the resumption of the Manila-Naga-Manila commercial service.
According to Geronimo, Chavez made the announcement after PNR engineers said the repair of the railway bridge in Ragay would be completed on Dec. 8. A portion of the bridge, which connects the villages of Apali and Apad in Ragay, collapsed on March 5 during a flash flood, destroying one of its foundations.
Geronimo said Friday’s inspection showed that in addition to clearing the tracks, more work was needed to strengthen the bridge foundation for the safety of train passengers and nearby communities.
Naga City PNR station manager Jose Florece said train service between Manila and Naga City stopped in October 2012 after raging river currents caused a railway bridge in Sariaya, Quezon, to collapse. Nine passengers were injured then.
Informal settlers then began occupying portions of the rail line, building houses and other structures, Geronimo said.
She said local government units, especially in Laguna and Quezon provinces, were helping relocate the informal settlers.
Geronimo assured the resumption of train services after the Duterte administration allocated a P214-billion budget for the PNR’s north-south railway project.
Geronimo said one of the challenges of the project would be to upgrade the narrow tracks in the south line to a wider international standard./rga
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