• Safety of Bicol Express questioned

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    LEGAZPI CITY: The much-awaited Bicol Express Train service from Naga City to Legazpi may be delayed after residents expressed fears that the newly renovated route that costs P49 million is not safe.

    The Sangguniang Panlungsod of Naga City has asked the Philippine National Railways (PNR) to start operations immediately. However, residents believe that the new railroad ties are unreliable and unstable, posing a danger to commuters.

    A railroad tie or crosstie is a rectangular support for the rails in railroad tracks. Ties are traditionally made of wood.

    Speaking on behalf of residents of Guinobatan, Albay, the Citizens Crime Watch (CCW) Bicol Chapter said the newly installed ties along the Bicol route must be thoroughly examined since softwood was used to replace old and damaged ties. They claim that this is not as strong as the old wooden ties that have been used for over 60 years.

    The fears stem from a complaint filed earlier that former PNR General Manager Junio Ragragio allegedly bought substandard wooden railroad ties in violation of Republic Act 6713 known as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

    Besides Ragragio, the other respondents in the complaint are PNR Project Manager Edgardo Remonte, the PNR Board of Directors and several John Does.

    The complaint alleged that the railroad ties delivered by the contractor appeared to be “palo china and gmelina” of fourth-class quality. Thousands of the questionable soft railroad ties can be found at the PNR stations in Guinobatan town, Ligao City and Albay.

    The CCW said many of newly installed wooden railroad ties already have cracks and loose bolts like the ones at the Travesia Bridge in Guinobatan town. CCW officials said samples of these questionable ties were brought to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Forestry Bureau for inspection but foresters could not classify them because they were already coated and treated with bunker oil.

    But the PNR assured the public that the new railroad ties are safe and it looks forward to the resumption of the Manila-Bicol train service.

    Bicol PNR Division Manager Constancio Toledano said, “We are still awaiting word from the new PNR General Manager Joseph Allan Dilay to open the 90-kilometer long Naga-Legazpi route which has low fares and will help commuters save time.

    PNR Engineering Department head Jaime Del Rosario has certified the safety of the southbound railroad and bridges following over a year of rehabilitation.

    Gov. Joey Sarte Salceda of Albay said Albayanos are excited to see the Bicol Express Train resume operations after 8 long years of suspension following the heavy damage brought about by Super Typhoon Reming in November 2006.

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