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PNR moves Bicol Express resumption to December

MANILA--Sen. Cynthia Villar today said while she was dismayed by the deferment of the opening of the Bicol Express line this September, she expressed hope the December opening will give the Philippine National Railways (PNR) ample time to make sure the line will be safe and cost-effective.

Bicol Express
Photo by Oscar Esmenda
Atty. Diosdado Silva, Philippine National Railways Asst. General Manager, in a letter dated September 2, 2014, informed Villar that the resumption of the Bicol Express operations originally scheduled this September 2014 in time for the Feast of Our Lady of Penafrancia in Naga City will be moved to December 2014.

“The change in our timelines is due to safety concerns caused by Typhoon Glenda which hit Luzon last month wherein debris all over our tracks have to be cleared and reinforcements need to be done on certain sections of our embankments which have become unstable,” Silva explained.

Villar, chair of the Senate Committee on Government Corporations and Public Enterprises, recalled that when the Senate was deliberating on the bill extending the life of PNR to another 50 years last June, she asked PNR officials for the timetable in the resumption of the Bicol route, which was suspended after a derailment incident in Sariaya, Quezon two years ago.

“The PNR assured us that they will be availing the services of competent individuals to assess the structural integrity of the tracks, bridges and station facilities along this line. A certification must be issued before people are allowed to use the trains," Villar said.

"The December opening will be timely, as many Bicolanos will be heading home to spend the holidays with their family,” she said.

Silva also told Villar that a number of projects are already completed leading to the reopening of the Bicol Express, including the Tagkawayan Bridge, and the painting of steel bridge superstructures in the Lucena area.

Nearing completion are the construction of the San Cristobal and Traversia Bridges, as well as the painting of 34 steel bridge superstructures in Naga City.

Silva also reported that the PNR Board has already approved the short list of qualified bidders for the required independent safety assessment of Bicol Express. (Senate)
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