The Philippine National Railways (PNR) has started extending its operations to Los Banos, Laguna using a “premium train” previously donated by Japan.
PNR spokesperson Joseline Geronimo told ABS-CBN News that they did a trial run last week but decided not to publicize the start of the actual operations since the train they are using can only accommodate 83 passengers.
The train leaves Los Banos around 5:07 a.m. and reaches Tutuban at around 8:14 a.m., according to the posted train schedule. Its next run is in the afternoon, leaving Tutuban station at 4:46 p.m. and arriving in Los Banos at 7:37 p.m.
“We have new trains coming. (And so) We are already preparing, exploring our other routes which we abandoned or suspended,” Geronimo explained in a phone interview.
The PNR’s trains used to be able to reach the Bicol region but its service has been reduced over the years because of various problems, including neglect and damage by typhoons.
The opening of the Los Banos section is part of the train management’s plans to slowly reach Bicol, Geronimo said.
Astrophysicist Dr. Rogel Mari Sese was among the several passengers who rode the first trip from Los Banos to Manila on Monday morning. His post on Facebook reviewing the experience has since gone viral with almost 3,000 shares as of Monday evening.
“Inside the train, I was surprised to see comfortable reclining seats complete with stowable leg rest. The air-conditioning was also quite cold,” posted Sese, who said he wanted to compare it with his experience in Japan where he lived for 6 years.
Among the features he noted were the restrooms and the reclining seats that can be rotated to allow passengers to face each other.
“The trip was very nice and comfortable, though a bit shaky at some points due to the conditions of the rail,” Sese wrote. “Overall, the train is highly recommended for commuters coming from Laguna. It is a comfortable and cost-efficient ride that we now have.”
It costs P150 from Manila to Los Banos, more than double the rate of a regular commuter train. Geronimo said this is still relatively cheap since the distance from Los Banos’s IRRI flag stop to Tutuban station is 68 kilometers.
Geronimo said the Japan-donated tourist train being used for the Los Banos route was previously used only for inspections since it only has 83 seats. She said a regular PNR commuter train can accommodate around a thousand passengers.
“But we didn’t want it to go to waste. Instead of just deteriorating, we decided to offer it to our passengers to help (ease commuter woes),” she said.
Because of the worsening traffic in Metro Manila, Geronimo said they had been receiving a lot of requests on social media to further expand their train lines. This is why they extended their route to Sta. Rosa, Laguna last October.
She said the only problem now is that they do not have enough trains to meet the demands of commuters.
Geronimo said there will be two trains arriving from Indonesia on December 9. “We will launch the trains probably December 16,” she said.
The first batch of Indonesian trains will be utilized in stations where the bulk of the passengers come from (Tutuban to Bicutan),” she said.
In his post, Sese mentioned how the train was delayed because of obstructions along the railroad.
“We’ve done several clearing operations. That’s why the situation has improved,” Geronimo said. However, she said there are still instances when tables and rooster cages are found obstructing the train lines.
“Now we’re coordinating with local government units because there are people throwing rocks on the train,” she said.
Thankfully, the windows of the Japanese train is able to withstand damage,” she added.
The PNR management has plans to further extend their operations to San Pablo and Lucena as soon as they get the additional trains. They also plan to reach Valenzuela, for their northern portion, next year.