Bicol Express Resumption postponed – next year maybe

Bicol Express Resumption

The Bicol Express Resumption has been postponed. The results of the track testing had been disastrous.

It is a typical story of Filipino optimism. Early in 2012, the famous Bicol Express resumed service service after many years of broken rails and broken machines. The 2012 Bicol Express Resumption lasted only for a few months, until an accident and a landslide destroyed the dream. During the following 3 years PNR, the Philippine National Railways, invested in the re-opening of the line between Naga and Legazpi.

PNR didn’t sleep, but they lacked funds and expertise. (I hopefully write in past tense). Early in November 2016 Assistant Transportation Secretary for Rails Cesar Chavez said that they hope to resume the Bicol Express operation by December 15, 2016. Hope is the last thing that dies in the Philippines. Bahala na!

Ten days ago Joseline Geronimo, PNR officer in charge, reported the inspection was smooth until the train reached the Mamatid station in Cabuyao City, also in Laguna. “After Mamatid, there were some interactions, encroachments by informal settlers. The train had to stop at some point as PNR personnel remove debris, tree branches and trunks blocking the track or clear canopies of some houses. But an aside comment made us think that afterwards nothing went smooth at all. A portion of the railway bridge in Ragay that connects the villages of Apali and Apad is still undergoing repairs, after it collapsed when a flash flood washed out one of its support foundations in March this year.

And then, last Saturday parts of the testing result leaked to the press:

Bicol Express Resumption postponed until first quarter 2017

CNN Philippines reported: Safety issues prompted transportation officials on Tuesday to postpone the resumption of train services from Manila to Naga City to the first quarter of 2017. After an 18-hour railway inspection on November 18, officials felt that certain portions of the 300-kilometer railway were unsafe. “We are already convinced that it is not safe, it is not sustainable and reliable if we start resuming the operation of PNR in December,” Transportation Undersecretary for Rails Cesar Chavez told CNN.

However, the rehabilitation of damaged Ragay bridge in Camarines Sur will take another month to finish, Chavez said. There are also more than 20,000 informal settlers living along the rail tracks who need to be relocated, he added.

We really love Philippine’s optimism. Relocate 20,000 informal settlers, repair a bridge and equalize some 400 kilometers of rails in 4 months is a very toug job. And do not forget the Holiday season. In a bout one weak activity here in the Philippines will shift from production to celebration. This Holiday season will last until mid January, when production will slowly resume. A bit more than 2 months will be left until the end of 1Q2017. Bahala na!

Meanwhile the Bicolanos keep skating. The title picture shows one of these funny Bicol skates. Thanks to Peter ( for the picture.

Government Priorities

Just today the national newspapers had again been full of optimistic headlines: Luzon to Mindanao bridge link to be studied. Higher public spending and robust consumption, coupled with increased investments once foreign ownership restrictions are lifted could drive economic growth to 10 percent. Up to PHP 9 trillion in the next six years to build new roads, bridges and transport terminals. Just for your eyes 9 trillion Pesos are 9,000,000,000,000 Pesos. Where do they come from.

At least two new international airports are scheduled to become operational within the next 12 to 24 months: The Bicol International Airport east of Legazpi and the New Bohol International Airport in Panglao. We are still collecting information on site and will report before end of 2016.

Later this week:
Later this week we’ll analyze a struggle only few people know about. The very important RoRo industry (Roll On, Roll Off ferries) faces very important challenges. The dream of bridges is only one of them. Come back again this week to read the result of many discussions we had in the last months.

One thing the new government understands: The infrastructure mess has to be cleaned up. Important investments and maintenance have to be done. Wonderful computer generated graphics and animation may only lure the people for a while but won’t resolve the real problems.

The Bicol Express Resumption is just one little brick in the foundation of a new Philippine awareness of prosperity. Bicol Express Resumption should be a pilot project to prove that the new government can do what they  promised: CHANGE!


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