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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.

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.

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.

Progress of Line 2 Extension station construction

This is another one of those quick posts. Here are a couple of photos showing the progress of the construction of the stations of the Line 2 Extension:

The Masinag Station under construction as viewed from the westbound side of Marcos Highway. That’s SM City Masinag on the right. The structure is very visible as you descend Sumulong Highway near the Valley Golf gate.

Here is a blurry shot of the Emerald Station as viewed from the eastbound side of Marcos Highway. That’s Robinsons Metro East on the right side.

While the stations’ construction seem underway, a colleague pointed out that there seems to be nothing going on with the rest of the system including the electrical and the tracks for the extension from Santolan to Masinag. This is along my daily commute and I also haven’t seen anyone working on the tracks. Perhaps it hasn’t been bid out or there’s a timetable for this somewhere?

A quick update on the Line 2 Emerald Station construction

Here are a couple of photos of Line 2’s Emerald Station, which is under construction. There’s significant progress in the construction but this will definitely take months to complete along with the Masinag Station, which is in a similar state of progress in construction.

Here is what the Emerald Station, which is just across from Robinsons Metro East and Sta. Lucia Mall, looks like. It’s still far from being completed but you can already see what seems to be an area underneath the tracks where people can cross from one side to the other. Stairs have been constructed to connect what could be a station concourse to the street level. The building under construction to the right in the photo is Sta. Lucia’s. From the looks of it, this will be an office building, likely to host a BPO office. We hope that the station will have direct connections with the two malls as well as this office.

Right after the station is the intersection of Marcos Highway with Felix Avenue and Gil Fernando Avenue where there is still pedestrian overpass that allows people to cross the wide roads safely. There are only rare instances when people attempt to cross at street level here but there were some security concerns as there was a spate of snatching incidents on the overpass. Cainta authorities seem to have addressed this despite some border issues with Marikina and the former has posted policemen to deter crime on the overpass.

The last image connects to the first one in the sense that there should be a connectivity for the existing pedestrian infrastructure (i.e., overpass and sidewalks) with the future Emerald Station. This connectivity would be in the form of suitably designed walkways that can and should include provisions for cyclists, too. Perhaps the two malls can pitch in to make these designs a reality and not just be content with token steel structures like what are usually constructed elsewhere and at the junction near the station. There is a good opportunity here to come up with good design that can become a good example for replication.