PNR Train Derailed; Bicol Run suspended - INQ

NAGA CITY, Philippines—The commercial run of the Philippine National Railways (PNR) train on Bicol to Quezon routes was put on hold Monday after the train got derailed in one of its trips Sunday, local authorities said.

The PNR train was supposed to serve Tagkawayan and the routes of Quezon-Naga City, Camarines Sur-Ligao City, and Albay starting Monday.

Beda Priela, chief of staff of the general manager, said the PNR management suspended operations after its Bicol commuter train got derailed on Sunday in Barangay (Village) Del Rosario, Lupi, Camarines Sur at about 8 a.m. on its way to Naga City from Tagkawayan, Quezon.

Priela called it a "minor derailment" in which the engine stopped before the train went off the rail tracks because of loose wooden ties.

He said the commuter train was running at an estimated speed of 50 km/hr and no one was hurt among the passengers who were on their way to celebrate the Peñafrancia Fiesta in Naga City.

Priela said mechanics and workers were sent immediately to the derailment site to re-rail the locomotive and another coach. These were successfully driven back to the PNR Naga station for further repair.

On Monday, the locomotive went back to Del Rosario to tow back to this city the two remaining coaches, which were left behind.

Priela said they had moved the target for a commercial run to the end of September.

"Even though we were not able to meet our objective of providing free rides for the Peñafrancia Fiesta, on the positive note, we have identified the weaknesses and strengths in the system. We could have not probably known these if we had not run the train," he explained.

Priela said the second-hand diesel-fed engines manufactured by General Electric and were acquired in 1987 from Singapore should be further reconditioned because its electrical wirings have been failing, causing them to shut down due to overheating.

Ding De Guzman, PNR consultant for rolling stocks, said spare parts and electrical experts would have to be brought in from abroad to fix the train.

De Guzman said that during the repair of the locomotives, rail tracks would be rehabilitated and wooden ties would be replaced with concrete ones.

Priela said that the Bicol commuter train made a successful run on Thursday as it reached Tagkawayan without hitch at about 10 p.m..

Tagkwayan is about 80 kilometers away from Naga City where it left at 5:43 p.m.

However, on Friday the engines again overheated in Sipocot, Camarines Sur at about 8 a.m. after it left Tagkawayan at 5 a.m.

The engine was revived at 1 p.m. and was sent back to Naga City.

Priela said the passengers of the train who were on their way to attend the Peñafrancia Fiesta were made to transfer to a bus to reach Naga City.

As the Bicol commuter train reached Naga City, the engine was again repaired the whole afternoon Friday and it was able to go back in the afternoon at Tagkawayan, arriving there at 9:20 p.m.

On Saturday, it left Naga City and made another successful run to Tagkawayan until it conked out again on Sunday in going to Naga City.

Priela said they would deploy teams to inspect and determine the integrity of the rail tracks.

"We don't want to start commercial operation just to earn jeers from the passengers so we want to make sure that the system would be okay before running again the Bicol commuter train," he added.

By Juan Escandor Jr.
Inquirer Southern Luzon
First Posted 15:24:00 09/21/2009

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