By Joseph John J. Perez
LEGAZPI CITY (19-May-2013) – It will take only a travel time of six hours from Legaspi City to Manila with a railway service extending up to Matnog in Sorsogon where a roll-on, roll-off (RORO) sea port is located.
These and more recommendations will be presented by the Regional Development Council (RDC) of the Bicol Region during the Railway Development Summit which will be held on June 21 in Metro Manila.
According to RDC secretariat, the Philippine Development Plan and the Bicol Regional Development Plan identified the revival, rehabilitation and modernization of the railway system as a priority infrastructure development program.
The train stations will also be developed as mix use commercial zones to spur economic growth in its environs. Amenities in trains and stations will also be provided such as internet connections, security cameras, clean toilets, medical services, amusement centers, online booking, inter-modal tickets, and modern passenger coaches that are senior citizen, women and person with disability (PWD) friendly, RDC secretariat said.
There is also a recommendation for the revival of spur lines to Legaspi and Tabaco ports, construction of spur lines to Daet, Caramoan and other major towns in Bicol for passenger and multi-purpose freight services.
National and Economic Development Authority (NEDA) Bicol assistant regional director Luis Banua said that Luzon regions including Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) signified interest on the railway development initiative of RDC for the interconnection of the north and south railways and the Metro Manila railway system.
The RDC proposed a railway development summit on December 7 last year through a resolution to promote the revival, expansion and modernization of the railway system in Bicol. The summit hopes to gain strong support from President Benigno Aquino III who will be invited as its keynote speaker, RDC secretariat said.
Provincial consultations were held in Camarines Sur on January 30, Sorsogon on February 27, and Camarines Norte on March 20.
A regional consultation was also held in Legaspi City On April 25 participated in by RDC members, local government units (LGU) representatives, academe, media, chambers of commerce and industry and non-government organizations. Technical consultations were also held from December to April to discuss railways technologies in terms of speed, services, capability, investment and maintenance costs, RDC secretariat said.
The business community emphasized that cargo and passenger train services will propel trade and industry in Bicol. Proposals were also discussed to deal with issues and concerns on squatting along railroad tracks, , illegal railroad crossings, Philippine National Railways (PNR)’s role, privatization and establishment of world class railways system that is fully integrated with other modes of transportation, RDC secretariat said.
“These recommendations will be submitted to the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) for discussion and adoption during the summit,” Development Administration Committee (DAC) Chairman Rev. Fr. Ramoncito Segubiense said.
Known as “Bicol Express” in the past decades due to its role as Bicol’s most popular mode of transportation, the railway industry had an observable slowdown and off-track direction in recent years that was overtaken by other reliable and efficient modes of transportation in the region.
The summit is expected to fuel anew the engines of the “Bicol Express” back to its tracks to regain its past glory as the region’s favorite mode of transportation.