Tuesday, 25 August 2009

New trains for commuters

Dinna Chan Vasquez
Manila Standard

COMMUTERS to Tutuban in Manila from Bicutan in Taguig and back now may ride air-conditioned trains that take only 45 minutes to cover the distance and charge only P16 one way.

State-run Philippine National Railways has three of the new Commuter Express coaches and has 15 more coming from South Korea. It is also refurbishing 30 of its old coaches at a cost of P5.3 million per coach.

The first train leaves Tutuban at 6 a.m. and Bicutan at 6:40 a.m. Six trains leave the two stations between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m., and then restart at 3:30 p.m. for Tutuban and at 4:47 p.m. for Bicutan.

“The trains are still very crowded especially during rush hours, but hopefully the situation will improve once more trains are running,” said Estelito Nierva, Railways’ operations manager.

“We will definitely improve the system.”

Many commuters had been wary of taking the trains for years because people occupying the squatter shanties facing the railroad tracks used to throw garbage—even feces—at the coaches each time they passed. The old coaches were also open, allowing anyone to get in and giving rise to thefts and holdups.

“The lack of doors meant anybody could get in,” Nierva said.

“Now that the trains are new and clean, we have not had one report of anyone throwing garbage at them. We also have not had any reports of holdups. I guess when anybody can just jump into the train, that’s unavoidable.”

The new coaches, the refurbishment of old trains, the rehabilitation of the old tracks and the construction of new ones resulted from a deal between the Philippine government and the Korean Export-Import Bank.

Railways had ordered 18 coaches from Hyundai Rotem Co., an affiliate of the Korea-based Eukor Car Services. The new’ trains interiors resemble those of luxury buses with fiberglass seats on the sides and an LCD TV in the middle.

The old trains will be refurbished and then used for the Tutuban-Bicol route, Nierva says.

Railways chairman Michael Defensor earlier said that the goal was for trains to leave at 10-minute intervals from Kalookan to Alabang, a distance of 21 kilometers.

Railways is clearing the perimeter of the railroad tracks of squatters and upgrading the tracks. The cost of rehabilitating the tracks from Tutuban to Bicol has been estimated at $300 million to make them at par with those in New York and Rome.

Nierva says Railways has outsourced the security for the trains and stations. The coaches travel with security escorts to help keep passengers safe.

Railways is also studying its ticketing system to avoid crowding and the scrambles to get into the trains, she says.

1 comment:

  1. Howdee,
    Just to clarify the amount of these new coaches in the Philippines.
    Each set (what I think he refers to as a coach) is made up of three coaches.
    There is now 5 sets.

    Philippine Railway Historical Society