By Chichi Conde, InterAksyon.com
MANILA, Philippines – After five years, the Philippine National Railways will resume service between Manila and the Bicol region when the “Bicol Express” rolls down the tracks on June 29, Malacanang said Thursday.
Palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the Bicol Express, which resumes service a month ahead of schedule, will provide air-conditioned rail service between Manila’s Tutuban Station and Naga City’s Central Station.
The trains feature three coach classes: tourist class, with reclining seats and in-coach movie and sound systems; and two kinds of sleeping cars – family suites for groups of four to six persons per compartment, and executive class, with individual compartments. It also has 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 of four round trips a day with a six-coach, 400-passenger capacity is expected in September, in time for the pilgrimage to the Festival of the Virgin of Peñafrancia, Lacierda said.
Some 16 additional round trips will commence next year, he added.
A third of the railway was rehabilitated under the previous administration while the remaining two-thirds have been undertaken by the Aquino administration.
The PNR earmarked P1.8 billion for the rehabilitation of the railway and P250 million for the acquisition of new trains.
Lacierda said 83 air-conditioned sleeper and commuter coaches have been donated by the Japanese government and are due to arrive later this year.
“The rehabilitated line will employ an additional thousand workers including railway police to monitor and patrol the tracks and junctions,” Lacierda said.