MANILA, Philippines – Passengers of the state-run Philippine National Railways (PNR) may soon see the return of the Bicol Express train service by December this year, officials said on Wednesday, May 27.
The train service, which runs from Tutuban in Manila to Legaspi City in Albay, stopped operations in 2012 after one of its trains derailed in Sariaya, Quezon, injuring 9 passengers.
At the House of Representatives, PNR consultant Antonio Soriano told the transportation committee that a technical team is expected to finish its assessment of the 478-kilometer train line next month.
A test run conducted last year showed that there were a number of bridges along the route that needed to be repaired, Soriano said.
“We discovered about 3 to 4 bridges that had structural issues. We are concerned that if we do the regular run to Bicol, there might be an accident,” Soriano said.
The PNR earlier allocated P40 million for a consultant to assess the safety of the railway track and bridge network.
“The completion of the assessment of the structural integrity of the bridges will be completed in June this year, after which a decision will be made on whether the Bicol line can be resumed sooner than December or by December this year,” Soriano said.
But Albay Representative Al Francis Bichara expressed doubts that the train service could resume operations in 6 months.
He pointed out that while the findings of the assessment team will be completed in June, the repairs and rehabilitation of the bridges have not yet even started.
Meanwhile, Soriano said the PNR is targeting the resumption of its Manila to Laguna train service by June 15.
On May 5, the PNR suspended its operations to make way for safety assessments after one of its trains derailed in April, injuring dozens of passengers.
Senator Cynthia Villar also urged train officials to speed up its investigations and resume operations as soon as possible.
In a statement, Villar said, “With the opening of classes, ridership is expected to rise again and we need the cheapest mode of transportation that can carry more people. We hope the PNR will make good on its promise to hasten the investigation and the repairs needed to ensure the safety of passengers.” – Rappler.com
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