By Joey Natividad
NAGA CITY (Bicoltoday.com/18-July-2012) – Rumors and suspicion of intensive lobbying by bus companies to derail the national government’s plan to modernize the Bicol-Manila railway transport system was not discounted by Philippine National Railways general manager Junio Ragragio as a possibility, but he stressed that the modern railway system will not affect the profitability the bus firms get in the lucrative Bicol-Manila bus routes.
Ragragio said on Tuesday (July 17) in a press briefing that heavy stress and demand on passengers and goods transport system along the congested South Luzon main route shall be relieved by the rehabilitation and utilization of the rail transport system that has been the traditional transport mode into the Bicol Region in decades until 1990’s.
He said that if there are secret lobbying by bus transport associations to prevent PNR from going full blast in its railway service, it will not affect the train service since the national government has prioritize the state-owned south railway system as part of Bicol regional development efforts.
The official also disclosed before the media that the PNR is on the process of forging MOA’s (memorandum of agreements) with local government units (LGUs) on safety measures along railway tracks and crossings, and defining safety-implementing roles and responsibilities between the two parties. PNR and Iriga City has already forged a MOA.
The PNR has been subjected to adverse public opinion in the last two months over several railway accidents, the worst in Iriga City last month where an overloaded tricycle was rammed by a train in an unmarked rail crossing.
The PNR official said plans to lease out for commercial use prime lots along the rail right-of-ways as part of revenue-raising schemes are being studied.
“We are looking for ways and means to raise revenues to upgrade the rail transport system,” said Ragragio.
At least USD 900 million is needed to upgrade the Manila-Bicol railways into a viable mass transport railway system. [BicolToday.com]
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