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Another look at the PNR tracks in Bicol

Before I post on more recent photos I took from our road trip to and from Baler, Aurora, I just wanted to share photos I took of the PNR railway tracks from an earlier trip to Naga City.

Railway crossing somewhere in Quezon – there are many crossings such as these in many towns in Laguna and Quezon

Notice that this is a single track set-up, which means only one train at a time along either direction may use the railway tracks.

Another railway crossing with an informal tricycle and sled terminal. Yes, that’s another paratransit on the right that runs along the seldom if ever uses railway tracks.

There seems to be no trace of railway ties or sleepers here.

The tracks here look like they are not longer in use even by sleds.

Old railway barrier that looks like its no longer functioning

Idle tracks as evidenced by the grass and the parked vehicles. A narrow road runs parallel to the tracks; giving access to homes along the riles.

There are railway ties/sleepers along these tracks that seem to be still in use judging from the limited growth of grass and the space being clear of obstructions.

More idle tracks including rails buried in the ground

Another railway crossing along the national highway

Some concerns about future rail ridership

Traveling along Commonwealth Avenue and Marcos Highway the past week, I both hopeful and worried about what happens after the Line 7 and Line 2 Extension finally becomes operational. Much has been said or reported about the potential of these two lines to change the way people commute; at least from the areas served by these two mass transit lines. However, how big an impact these would have in terms of actual reduction of private car use  remains to be seen.

Will there be significant decreases in the volume of motor vehicles along Commonwealth Avenue, Marcos Highway and Aurora Boulevard? Or will there be just the same traffic along these roads? The worry is based on the likelihood that those who would be taking Lines 2 and 7 would be people who are already taking public transportation and not those who have chosen to leave their cars (or motorcycles) at home.

Our students have been studying ridesharing and P2P bus operations the past few years and the conclusion has so far been a shift from one mode of public transport to what’s perceived as a better one. It’s somewhat a difficult thing to accept for advocates of public transport especially those behind TNVS, P2P buses and railways but it is what it is, and its important to accept such findings in order for us to understand what’s going on and come up with better ways to promote public transport and convince car users to use PT.

Traffic flows at the Masinag junction with the Line 2 Masinag Station and elevated tracks in the background

What is more intriguing is the proposed subway line for Metro Manila. The alignment is different from the ones identified in previous studies for the metropolis and from what I’ve gathered should have stations that serve a North-South corridor that should make for a more straightforward commute (i.e., less transfers) for those taking the subway.

Probable MM Subway alignment (from the internet)

It is another line that has a big potential as a game-changer for commuters but we won’t be able to know for sure until perhaps 5 or 6 years from now. What we know really is that there was a lost opportunity back in the 1970s when government should have pushed for its first subway line instead of opting for the LRT Line 1.

Lessons to be learned from experiences on public transport abroad

There’s this “old” article that came out last year that is very much relevant as it is timeless for its topic. The title is intriguing as the many if not most US cities are known to be car-dependent. Few have good public transportation in terms of the efficiencies or qualities we see in Singapore, Hong Kong, Seoul or Tokyo (just to mention Asian examples). Clearly, quality of service is the main reason why people are apprehensive about using public transportation. In fact, the attraction of ride shares, for example, are precisely because people want to have what they perceive as safe, comfortable and convenient modes of transport for their regular commutes. Only, for many people, their choice is also limited by the affordability of such modes of transport. Perhaps the same is applicable if you extend the discussion to include active transport. Cities and municipalities would need to provide the right infrastructure and environment for people to opt out of cars, take public transport, walk or cycle.

English, J. (2018) Why did America give up on mass transit? , http://www.medium.com/citylab, https://medium.com/citylab/why-did-america-give-up-on-mass-transit-dont-blame-cars-d637536e9a95 [Last accessed: 08 March 2019]

Railway bridges along the PNR Main Line South

This is a continuation of the series of posts about my recent trip to Bicol where I was able to take some photos for items I generally label. These stock of photos are posted here for several reasons including convenience of access in case I need them for lectures or other presentations. Previously, I had posted on vertical curves along the Andaya Highway. This time around are some photos I took of railway bridges along the PNR’s Main Line South and particularly in Camarines Sur. It was quite challenging to look for or anticipate seeing these structures; many of which are quite old and in a state needing urgent maintenance. Most if not all are steel truss bridges and the ones in better conditions are shown in the following photos. All were taken within the Naga City boundaries.

What happens now to the DOST’s AGTs?

The Automated Guideway Transit (AGT) vehicles that were used in the research and proof of concept at the previous test site in UP Diliman are scheduled to be transported back to DOST’s MIRDC soon. The vehicles are still in UP Diliman and are usable for R&D if someone decides to come up with a viable proposal for these. Unlike the hybrid electric train that is the AGT’s contemporary in terms of them being parallel projects, the future is unclear for both AGT models (i.e., there is another, higher capacity AGT already at MIRDC and tested using the test tracks there).

The two AGT vehicles are wrapped to protect them from the elements. These are functional and should still have value in case someone proposed to continue in their testing and refinement. It doesn’t need to be an elevated guideway for development to continue.

Here’s a closer look a colleague managed to take before we turned at the intersection.

What’s next for the AGT? Is there a future for these vehicles? Will the DOST initiate something with the DOTr or maybe with an LGU (Taguig?) to come up with a project that will employ these vehicles in what can be a full system instead of one on test tracks? Let’s hope these assets can still be utilised and not be wasted.

Some snapshots of the PNR ROW along the way to Bicol

I promised to post about my trip and here are a few photos I took of the PNR’s right of way (ROW) showing the railways crossing with the Pan Philippine Highway (Asian Highway 26 or AH 26) at many points.

After traveling in the early hours of the morning, we finally got a good glimpse of the PNR’s south line that basically runs parallel to the national highway.

The single track line will actually go underneath the bridge downstream from where this photo was taken. I just couldn’t get a clear shot from our vehicle. I hope to get one on the way back.

Railway tracks are currently used as access to communities with dirt roads often running just beside the tracks.

Railway tracks leading to what looks like an area that still has a lot of vegetation. Note, too, what looks like check rails in the photo.

Railroad crossing signs along the highway – the standard one is obvious in the photo

Much of the PNR’s ROW has encroachments making it unsafe for modern railway operations.

An obviously unused (dormant?) part of the line in Quezon

The government plans to upgrade or rehabilitate the PNR’s Main Line South with the help of funding (and technical assistance?) from China. A colleague opined that maybe since the north line rehab is to be undertaken with the help of the Japanese, then perhaps the south should similarly be rehabbed with the help of Japan. That should ensure the same quality and standards will be applied throughout the system. What do you think?

More photos and stories soon!

The AGT test site at UP Diliman is no more

This is actually a late post considering what has transpired last year that led to the demolition of the AGT test facilities at the University of the Philippines Diliman campus. For one, UP (or at least Diliman) didn’t want it. That was to be expected as Diliman’s Executive Council comprised of the constituent university’s deans and executive staff (Chancellor and Vice Chancellors) already stated that they don’t want an AGT in the campus many years ago and during the last administration when the main proponent, then DOST Secretary Montejo, was still very much in-charge of that department. Here are photos taken by a colleague last year showing the demolition work on the elevated guideway and stations. These were taken as they traveled along C.P. Garcia Avenue towards the University Avenue.

The demo was completed late last year and the AGT vehicle has been transferred to the MIRDC compound in Bicutan. The two prototypes are now there and there is an uncertainty about their futures. One colleague recalled “if only they had listened and had the AGT tested the proper way”. He was referring to the proposal to have an independent evaluation of the vehicle in order to ensure that its technical specifications and capabilities were up to international standards. The AGT proponents didn’t agree and proceeded according to what they wanted despite what we heard was a similar recommendation from then DOTC officials to have the vehicle certified as safe for public use.

I am happy to know that at least one project from that ambitious program during the last administration will finally be operational. A different approach seems to have been undertaken for the hybrid train that was produced for the PNR. Recent news stated that the train has undergone a series of tests and needs to hurdle a few more before going into operation along the PNR’s commuter line. Hopefully, it succeeds and encourage production of more like it and lead to an evolution of Philippine-made trains.