Return of the Bicol Express
PHILIPPINES: Following three test runs in late May, Philippine National Railways announced on June 9 that long-distance passenger services between Manila and Bicol province would resume on June 29.
The announcement marks the completion of a four-year, 1•8bn pesos programme to rebuild PNR’s 479 km Main Line South between the capital and Legaspi. Having operated for many decades on a sporadic basis typified by poor quality infrastructure and low speeds, Bicol Express trains were withdrawn in October 2006 after a typhoon destroyed two bridges at San Cristobal in Laguna province and at Trevisia in Albay province.
PNR now intends to launch four daily return trains over the 400 km from Manila Tutuban to Naga City. Initially PNR’s existing hauled coaches will be used, prior to the arrival of 83 second-hand air-conditioned vehicles from JR East in September. Representing an investment of 250m pesos, these coaches will allow PNR to provide air conditioning, sleeper berths and dining facilities in order to compete with coach services. At 9 h 50 min, journey times are likely to be similar to road.
An Island Revival: A detailed account of the rehabilitation of Philippine National Railways appeared in the June 2010 issue of Railway Gazette International