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Thursday, February 29, 2024

Spending right on tracks

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"There are just some things that are worth spending on."



As we are aware, the North-South Commuter Railway which connects urban areas in Pampanga and Tarlac in the North, and Calamba in the South, to areas in Metro Manila, Phase 1, February this year. This is one of the most notable infrastructure undertakings under this administration’s BBB program.

The significant and positive advantages of this project should be examined under the realities of the present condition of our trains, and current railway system. Just recently, two LRT-2 coaches collided late at night in Quezon City which caused injuries to at least 34 people. Last week, a LRT-1 train coach caught on fire in Blumentritt station. There have been reports of trains stopping, trains shooting off the tracks, train cars that are not fitted to the tracks and other issues that have, in sum, resulted in long queues, inconvenience, and at times, peril to the commuting public.

This is my concern. At present, our trains are designed to work with narrow-gauge railway tracks. However, the narrow-gauge railway are becoming obsolete, hence the source for replacement parts and maintenance mechanisms will soon be gone. Countries such as Japan and Kenya have shifted to the standard-gauge railways. China, Belgium, Finland, Austria and the US utilize only the standard-gauge. Few countries are still using narrow gauge such as Nepal. Sudan and South Sudan.

Narrow-gauge railways are made for temporary and not long-term use. After 20 years of use, the wear and tear of the trains and its railways is obvious. Standard gauge railways, on the other hand, are known for stability and ability to handle heavier and faster traffic. Considering the situation and volume of our riding public, the standard/wide-gauge railway is more suitable to meet public needs.

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Hence, pursuant to House Resolution No. 2538 which I filed on April 08, 2019, I call for the shift from the narrow-gauge railway tracks to the standard/wide-gauge railway tracks in the North-South Railway Project. Many have expressed concern that this will entail additional cost. However, the safety of the riding public is invaluable. Also, any additional cost will be outweighed by the durability, stability and other long-term benefits to the railway and transport system when the proper materials are used. With this proposed new system, there will be savings in maintenance, repairs and low deterioration costs. To my mind, there are just some things that are worth spending on. This is one of them.

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