Introduction To Philippine National Railways
" The sole operator of the most extensive Intra-Island Railway in the Philippines "
The state-owned Philippine National Railways (or Pambansang Daangbakal ng Pilipinas in Filipino), commonly abbreviated as PNR, is the sole operator of the most extensive intra-island railway on Luzon, the largest island in the Philippines.
It operates two commuter rail services in Metro Manila and the Bicol Region. The Bicol service is currently under rehabilitation in preparation for the resumption of the Bicol Express run to Naga City in Camarines Sur province, and eventually to the southern terminal in Legazpi City in Albay. The existing and well-patronized commuter service in Metro Manila is part of the metropolitan transit system and is referred to as the Orange Line.
PNR officially began operations on November 24, 1892 as the Ferrocarril de Manila-Dagupan, during the Spanish colonial period, and later becoming the Manila Railroad Company (MRR) during the American colonial period. It became the Philippine National Railways on June 20, 1964 by virtue of Republic Act No. 4156. The PNR is an attached agency under the Department of Transportation and Communications.
Rehabilitation and Revival
PNR used to operate over 797 km (495 miles) of route from La Union down to Bicol. However, continued neglect and damage from natural calamities in past decades reduced PNR’s efficiency and railroad coverage. Persistent problems with informal settlers in the 1990s contributed further to PNR’s decline. In 2006, Typhoons Milenyo and Reming caused severe damage to the network, resulting in the suspension of the Manila-Bicol services.
In 2007 the Philippine government initiated a rehabilitation project aiming to remove informal settlers from the PNR right-of-way, revitalize commuter services in Metro Manila, and restore the Manila-Bicol route as well as lost services in Northern Luzon. Government actively pursued the rehabilitation and revival of Philippine rail transport through various investments, despite the numerous problems involved.
By 2011, work was ongoing for the total reconstruction of rail bridges and tracks, including replacement of the current 35-kilogram track with newer 50-kilogram tracks and the refurbishing of stations. The first phase, involving the conversion of all the tracks in the Manila metropolitan area, was completed in 2009. On July 14, 2009, PNR launched its diesel multiple units (DMU) newly acquired from South Korea.
In mid-2011, a test run of the Bicol Express between Manila and Naga City was conducted although it encountered a problem with the tracks and typhoon-damaged embankment in the Malaguico, Sipocot area. Full repairs have been undertaken since then.
Overcoming the odds
From the time the first rail tracks were laid in the Manila-Dagupan Ferrocaril line near the end of the colonial period, until today, without the interventions of two world wars, two revolutions, countless typhoons, volcanic eruptions, bureaucratic neglect and mismanagement, our trains would have been running for 121 years.
Again, the need is constant. And responding to the people’s need has been the paramount motivation of PNR’s hardworking Board and Management to set the agency’s long-term directions and to begin realizing these in current operations.
But even more important now is the savvy leadership of DOTC Secretary Mar Roxas and the full backing of President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino for the proper development of the rail industry. He knows how much the public awaits it. He knows how much resources must be mustered.
Today, PNR can only respond in kind by overcoming all the odds of its recent history. It must maximize existing resources, improvise if needed, and go full speed ahead.