By Paolo G. Montecillo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—Recent storms have pushed back the opening of the “Bicol Express” train line once again, with officials rushing to repair new damage along the track.
But the Philippine National Railways (PNR) management said in a statement on Monday that the train service should be ready for commercial operations by September this year. Officials originally wanted the train line back in service last July.
PNR general manager Junio Ragragrio said due to the most recent storms, the PNR has decided to keep the train line closed for three more weeks to make way for maintenance checks.
The PNR held a test run of the “Bicol Express” last June 29, encountering hitches, with parts of the tracks also damaged by heavy rains at the time.
“The scheduled temporary closure of operations for the next three weeks is part of our calculated measure to ensure the overall railway worthiness of the Bicol Express,” Ragragrio said.
“But the heavy rains brought by Typhoon Juaning had created pocket floods along our Camarines Sur tracks up to Milaor town just before Naga.”
Instead of completing makeshift repairs, he said the PNR would build an entirely new bridge over the Malaguico area in Bicol, which was one of the most affected by flooding. During that time, other historically sensitive track segments of the south rail shall also be inspected for damage that might have been wrought by Juaning.
“We are anticipating the influx of tourists and travelers for the Peñafrancia Festival this September, two big conventions in Bicol, and the holiday season in December,” Ragragrio said.