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PNR San Fernando, Pampanga

It’s Araw ng Kalayaan (Independence Day) in the Philippines so I thought it was appropriate to feature something related to Philippine history and heritage. Railways in the Philippines played a part in its history being a mode of transport that connected the provinces of major islands like Luzon and Panay. The other railways were more for freight (e.g., agricultural goods) rather than for passengers so the railways in Luzon and Panay, especially the former, had more impact on socio-political events including the wars of independence from Spain and later, the United States. One station that probably figured in the actions during those times more than a 120 years ago is the PNR Station in San Fernando, Pampanga, which was along the main line north that was used by Philippine revolutionaries to transport troops and logistics.

Following are photos of the station, which has been converted into a museum. The proposed revival of this northern rail line will mean that a new station will have to be constructed but it would be good to integrate the old one with the new. Those responsible should work towards heritage preservation in this and other cases of railway stations.

PNR EDSA Station

Another station where our staff conducted surveys at is the PNR EDSA Station. This is the one close to the Magallanes interchange where you can get off if you’re transferring to a bus or jeepney using EDSA, South Super Highway or Chino Roces. Here are some photos taken a few weeks ago.

Station platform with a commuter train in the background. Note the lack of signs and the condition of the railway tracks. 

PNR commuter train – it is noticeable that the train is much shorter compared to the platform. The same platforms served the longer trains serving provincial routes back in the day.

Arriving train beneath the overpass that’s part of the Magallanes interchange (intersection of EDSA and SLEX)

Another photo of the station with a train stopped to unload and load passengers – the service frequency, I’ve been told, is still quite low. The PNR services have a lot of room for improvement but they will have to acquire more rolling stock and rehabilitate their tracks. Perhaps they should also improve their fare collection system (Beep card?)?

PNR Alabang Station

My colleagues conducted a survey at several Philippine National Railway (PNR) stations in relation to studies being made for proposed new railway lines including those for rehabilitation. One was already posting photos on her social media account so I asked if I can use some of her photos here on this blog. She generously obliged so here are photos taken just a few weeks ago at the PNR Alabang Station.

PNR commuter train at the Alabang Station – note the conditions of the railway tracks and how open the station is.

People (not necessarily passengers) walk along the railway tracks

Passengers queued to get tickets for their journey

Station platform

Another photo of the platform and train

Passengers queued for tickets and entering the platform (yes, no turnstiles here) while a surveyor works

Here’s a train that’s about to close its doors after loading passengers

More photos soon!

Failed experiments? On the DOST’s hybrid train and AGT

Our staff were implementing surveys in relation to the proposed railway projects supported by the Government of Japan. They came across this scene showing the DOST’s (through its MIRDC) hybrid electric train.

The hybrid electric train at the PNR Calamba Station. It looks like its being maintained or checked although I’m not sure the crude set-up is appropriate for such undertaking.

The DOST had a much hyped program during the last administration about the development of Philippine-made transport. Among these were the two Automated Guideway Transport (AGT) train sets that were developed by the MIRDC – one with two 60-passenger (seated and standing) cars and a test track in UP Diliman, and another with two 120-passenger cars with test track at the MIRD compound in Bicutan. While both had what were claimed as extensive tests, these were mainly done by DOST/MIRDC personnel with no independent inspections or validations. At one time, I recall that we at UP had discussions with representatives of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries who offered to explore arranging for a technical cooperation project to have a full-scale testing of the AGT’s using their facilities in Japan. We referred them to MIRDC and that didn’t turn out well as the agency (or perhaps under the the instructions of a higher official?) was supposed to have rejected the offer preferring it to be tested locally. That was a major problem because there were no suitable testing facilities or qualified persons or institutions to grant certification for the AGT to be used as public transport.

The last time I checked with folks at DOST and UP, the AGT prototype set-up in Diliman was already being scheduled for dismantling. This probably comes as a welcome development for those who opposed the project from the start. However, there is potential here for continuing research if only funding could be secured and proponents kept open minds and objectivity in the way researches could be done. There was the perception before that the people behind the AGT projects were so engrossed with what they thought were their babies that they blocked critical but objective comments and recommendations about the prototypes and their applications.

As for the hybrid electric train, there is now supposed to be a cooperative project between the MIRDC and PNR. I recall a few months ago that they even had some test runs to show the hybrid train to be running on PNR tracks; even hyping that this could be part of the future of a rehabilitated PNR. Is this true or just PR? Hopefully, the DOST could get the context right, and the DOTr and PNR can support such initiatives for Philippine-made transport. This is especially as the current administration continues to pursue its Build, Build, Build program that has as major features several railway projects.

Den Haag Central Station

One of the most aesthetically pleasing modern railway stations I’ve seen is the Den Haag (The Hague) Central Station. The columns and roof structure alone provide travellers with a feeling of space while also having the functionality required for a central station. Contrast this to the old station feel of Amsterdam Central Station (plus the crowds) and somehow I would rather have the conditions at Den Haag. Of course, I have been to much crowded stations than Amsterdam as I lived in Tokyo and Yokohama for 3 years.

Arriving on the platform at Den Haag Central Station

Looking back towards the end of the platform

To the turnstiles!

Station plaza

Tram stop just outside the station

You can easily get on a tram upon exiting the station. Above is another train line, which crosses the station and its platforms.

More high capacity transit for Antipolo!

Two years ago, I wrote about Antipolo being ripe for high capacity public transportation. So far, work is progressing along the Line 2 Extension to Masinag but there’s no word about it being extended further (Cogeo? Marikina?). I have always maintained that the demand in Cogeo, Antipolo is already established and a mass transit line terminating there will certainly be a game changer in terms of commuting. In fact, it may contribute to rapidly developing that area and hasten the development of Antipolo’s government centre, which is a few kilometres further along Marcos Highway.

Schedule and fares for the P2P bus service between Robinsons Place Antipolo and Robinsons Galleria in Ortigas Center.

There is now a P2P bus service between Robinsons Place Antipolo and Robinsons Galleria via Ortigas Avenue. And then there is the newest P2P service between SM Masinag and the Makati CBD. The first has very limited capacity at present and have few patrons (regular passengers) based on what I’ve observed and the rough survey my students did for a class project. I still have to see the second one from SM Masinag but I assume it has a higher demand considering a lot of people already commute from that area to Makati. I say so because there’s a nearby UV Express terminal that’s always crowded with people every time I pass by in the morning. This should also translate into demand for the afternoon/evening period. However, I am not so optimistic about the off-peak periods (I hope I’m wrong!) as most P2P services my students have surveyed so far indicate really low occupancies during the off-peak periods.

Is P2P the way to go for Antipolo (and its neighbouring towns like Cainta, Taytay and Marikina)? I think this is still basically a stop-gap measure and a mass transit line as well as complementing conventional buses would still be the most suitable for these rapidly and steadily growing areas. Ortigas Avenue is ripe for a high capacity system that should perhaps be grade separated. The demand was there more than two decades ago. I seriously believe that the Province of Rizal, the City of Antipolo and the high-earning Municipalities of Cainta and Taytay should exert more effort and lobby for a mass transit line serving the Ortigas corridor.

Amsterdam Schipol Airport railway station

My recent trip to Europe had me traveling from my entry point at Amsterdam’s Schipol Airport to Enschede in Twente. I took the Intercity train to my destination city but not before taking photos around Schipol Airport and its underground train station.

This was my first look at the train station at Amsterdam Schipol Airport

Directional signs for arriving passengers

Ticket counters for various destinations from Schipol – one can purchase tickets for domestic or international destinations at the airport, which is a major gateway for Europe.

Cafes and shops at Schipol

Passengers checking their documents or verifying directions

Information booth at the airport

Travelers at Schipol airport

At the platform

Passengers boarding or waiting at the platform of Schipol station

Double decker car of an Intercity train headed for Venlo

My Intercity train ticket to Enschede

Back of the ticket

I like these clocks at railway stations and airports. They give me an opportunity to synchronise my watch with the clocks and the time at the country and city where I am at.