"Bikol Express" Ready for Peñafrancia Fiesta

Saturday, July 4th, 2009

NAGA CITY, June 30 --- The Philippine National Railways (PNR) Tagkawayan-Naga stretch will soon be operational in time for the forthcoming Peñafrancia fiesta here.

The assurance came from Naga City-based PNR consultant Nicolas Beda Priela who told media practitioners that the rehabilitation works in the area are being rushed for the celebration of the regional fiesta in September this year.

President Arroyo, in her latest visit to Naga, said "by the time of Peñafrancia fiesta in September, this year, commuter train travel between Iriga City, Camarines Sur and Tagkawayan, Quezon will already be in place."

The upgrading of the PNR facilities in the area is an integral part of the larger Tagkawayan (Quezon)-Guinobatan (Albay) South-rail rehabilitation program amounting to P1.8 billion.

He said the P500 million Tagkawayan-Naga City rehabilitation works are expected to be completed in August this year, while the Naga-Guinobatan component before the end of 2009.

According to Priela, the route will initially be served by two units of PNR three-coach commuters train now also undergoing test runs within the area of PNR Naga Central Station.

"Commuters will initially serve the Tagkawayan-Naga stretch next month to augment the number of transport facilities which will shuttle passengers to and from the city during the Peñafrancia fiesta," Priela said.

In an interview, PNR General Manager Manuel Andal said the upgrading works of southbound PNR stations and the rehabilitation of railroad tracks from Tagkawayan to Guinobatan are also being fast-tracked to meet the 2009 completion deadline.

PNR ceased operations after super typhoons Milenyo and Reming wrought havoc in different parts of the country rendering heavy damages on its facilities, especially those in the coverage area of Calamba (Laguna) and Legazpi City (Albay).

Priela said among the important facilities that were badly damaged by the super typhoons include San Cristobal Bridge in Calamba, Laguna that links Tagkawayan and other municipalities in Quezon province to Metro Manila.

The administration of President Arroyo is bent on modernizing the operations of the government-owned railway company to spur economic development. It is estimated that around 20,000 passengers daily will benefit from the resumption of PNR operations in south Luzon area.

The rehabilitation of PNR's existing lines and other facilities is seen as a tool in bringing development in Central and Southern Luzon provinces by providing the public with effective and efficient transport services.

After 2009, it is expected that long-distance train services from Metro Manila to the provinces of Camarines Sur, Albay and Sorsogon in the Bicol Region and vice versa will help boost the economy since "the movement of many passengers and commodities will further strengthen the economic ties of Manila to production centers of the South."

The rehabilitation of the PNR Naga station was allocated with P24 million while P17 million has been earmarked for the repair of the Travesia Bridge in Guinobatan, Albay.

The Tagkawayan-Naga commuters will be ran by two diesel locomotives now being readied for travel at the PNR Naga Central Station.

Right now, repair and rehabilitation works in the entire coverage of Manila-Bikol area are focused on the rehabilitation of coaches, engines and reinforcement of railroad embankments by replacing their ballasts and the wooden ties with concrete ones. (PNA)




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