LEGAZPI CITY: The Philippine National Railway (PNR) on Thursday allayed fears over the Bicol Express service as it denied allegations that the wooden railroad ties used in the renovation of the Naga-Legazpi tracks are inferior in quality and may endanger commuters.
This developed as the Citizens Crime Watch (CCW) Bicol chapter filed a case before the Office of the Ombudsman against former PNR general manager Junio Ragragio, project engineer Edgardo Remonte, PNR board of directors and John Does for importing sub-standard wooden railroad ties to replace the old ones in 2012, thus making the railway unstable and prone to accidents.
The Bicol Express has been inoperational since November 2006 after Typhoon Reming damaged the tracks.
In November 2012, the Bicol Express service resumed only to be derailed in Sariaya, Quezon barely a few days in operation due to another typhoon.
Albay train commuters said there is no need for the Bicol Express to continue because of accidents caused by its off-and-on operation.
A police report in Legazpi showed that because of the train’s irregular service, a resident was killed while taking a rest inside his car which was parked at the railway, 20 meters away from his house. The man heard the sirene from the approaching train and tried to get out of the car but it was too late.
PNR information officer Paul Dequiroz said railroad ties in question may not be as hard as the original railroad ties of Yakal specie but these are being used in other countries like China, Japan and Canada.
The railroad ties described as a “larch” specie were imported from China and is used for ship construction, telephone poles, mine timber and railroad ties, Dequiroz explained.
He said that due to the government log ban specifically on hard species such as Yakal, PNR decided to import the railroad ties to push through with the rehabilitation project, adding the imported railroad ties proven as stable cost cheaper.
PNR engineering department head Jaime Del Rosario recently certified the stability of the Bicol Express railroad tracks following a request from the Naga City council.
The Naga City council filed a resolution seeking the start of the Naga City-Legazpi City service following complaints from travellers because of ongoing bridge and road contructions along Maharlika highway in Camarines Sur.
The 90-kilometer Naga City-Legazpi City route takes at least two-and-a-half hours of travel.
Bicol PNR manager Constan–cio Toledano explained that the new railroad ties would be installed with technical preparation, using bolts and spring. The CCW, in its complaint, said the newly-installed railroad ties do not have spring and many have already shown cracks. It also described the imported railroad ties as softwood “palo china and gmelina” valued in contract at P49 million.
Toledano said that since there is no assurance yet as to when Bicol Express would finally resume operation, all the necessary preparation in the intallation of railroad ties have yet to be complied with because the Canadian engineering team hired by PNR to inspect and examine railway works have yet to be completed.