When people and goods keep moving, when people can trade or transact business without minimum delay, with adequate speed and access and delivery; when industries feed into the grid of national economy, and deliver returns not just in terms of private profit but also of public benefit and services—those are the unmistakable signs of progress.
This is the reason why governments maintain trains and other public transportation, and why people need them. And it is certainly the reason people eagerly anticipate the rehabilitation of the PNR infrastructure and trains, and especially the Bicol Express run on its mainline to the south.
From the time the first rail tracks were laid in the Manila-Dagupan Ferrocaril line near the end of the colonial period, until today, without the interventions of two world wars, two revolutions, countless typhoons, volcanic eruptions, bureaucratic neglect and mismanagement, out trains would be have been running for 121 years.
Again, the need is constant. And responding to the people’s need has been the paramount motivation for PNR’s hardworking Board of Directors to set the agency’s long-term directions and operations.
But even more important now is that since repeated attempts at full rehabilitation, apart from public demand, the other constant that provides the motive power for ongoing works at PNR, is the support from President, Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino himself. He knows much the public awaits it. He knows how much resources must be mustered towards full rehabilitation.
Today, PNR can only respond in kind by overcoming all the odds of its recent history.
Maximizing all its existing resources, rehabilitation work is going on full speed ahead especially along its infrastructure.
Before train operators can even think of replacing or refurbishing the trains or railcars themselves, the tracks, railroad ties, and bedding or embankment must be strengthened or reconditioned to carry the weight of new or repaired rolling stock.
Right now, to strengthen tracks and bridges, PNR is replacing the existing wooden ties with prestressed concrete sleepers. Other firming-up measures include ballasting of the tracks, replacement of corroded rails with new ones, widening of embankment, and reconstruction of damaged culverts. PNR is also reinforcing its bridges and improving the drainage system.
At the same time, the whole infrastructure rehab, restoration of the railroad communication system, and refurbishing of rolling stocks will cost the PNR more than P1.5 billion, just to reopen the Bicol line. To fully restore the line, another P1.25 billion is needed. Government is looking at foreign sources of funds to fully restore the line, even as PNR has not asked for budget subsidy to reopen the line and will actually run on its own steam, so to speak.