MANILA, Philippines - Malacanang said the famous “Bicol Express” of the Philippine National Railways (PNR) will be up and running starting June 29, years after it was mothballed due to harsh weather conditions and lack of finances.
In a press release, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said the rail service between Manila and Bicol will resume a month ahead of schedule “made possible by a new workforce and contracts for the Quezon-Bicol portions of the tracks, and vital infrastructure rehabilitation including the completion of the 50-meter San Cristobal Bridge in Laguna.”
The so-called Bicol Express, which started in 1938, was halted in the 1970s because of devastating weather. It was rehabilitated in 1985, only to experience deteriorations in the coming years. It ceased operations in 2006 due to typhoon damage.
“With the forthcoming resumption of the Bicol Express, new impetus to tourism and the transport of goods has been given. Manila-Bicol rail service resuming this month is a promising start,” Lacierda said.
He said PNR has earmarked P1.8 billion for the rehabilitation of the railway, on top of P250 million for the acquisition of the new trains. These include 83 air-conditioned sleeper and commuter coaches donated by Japan, which are due to arrive within the year.
The 400-kilometer long rail service between Manila’s Tutuban Station and Naga City’s Central Station will also “employ an additional thousand workers including ‘railway police’ to monitor and patrol the tracks and junctions,” Lacierda said.
The fully-rehabilitated Bicol Express will have 3 kinds of coaches in the future: tourist class with reclining seats and in-coach movie and sound systems; sleeping cars for families and for the executives; as well as a dining car with first class amenities.
“The projected journey of less than ten hours will put the Bicol Express at a competitive advantage with buses which take a full ten hours to make the trip, while offering travelers a superior riding experience at attractive fares,” Lacierda said.
Full service at 4 round trips a day (with a six-coach, 400-passenger capacity) is expected in September in time for the pilgrimages to the Festival of the Virgin of Peñafrancia.
An additional 16 round trips will start next year.