To promote tourism and economic growth, the revival of the famous Bicol Express of the Philippine National Railways is being pushed by Liberal Party vice presidential candidate Leni G. Robredo.
Speaking before more than 3,000 supporters at the Bicol College gymnasium on January 14, 2016 in Daraga, Albay, Robredo said “the return of the line would shorten the 14-hour travel time by bus from Metro Manila to Bicol and vice versa, passing through the Maharlika Highway.
The former congresswoman of Camarines Sur said “it was high time to bring back the glory of the Bicol Express in the region as it lags behind compared to other regions.”
“It’s time for the total revival of our very own Bicol Express to propel tourism and economic growth. If you travel by bus, it will take about 12 to 14 hours or worse, 16 hours, due to heavy traffic. We want to shorten the Bicol-Metro Manila trip to propel development and help our farmers transport their goods to the urban centers with lesser expenses,” Robredo said.
Robredo said the transport system in Bicol had been lagging behind due to the absence of the Bicol Express compared to the regions in Northern Luzon where train services were catering to the people by expediting travel time.
“This is what we have been hoping for with Governor Joey Salceda: to bring back our train services to promote countryside development,” Robredo said.
She said that once revived, the Bicol Express could link in vital cities in the region and help in their robust development.
Robredo visited Albay, specifically the cities of Ligao and Legazpi, as her supporters launched the BicoLeni Express.
Her supporters were led by Rep. Fernando Gonzalez, Salceda and Albay mayors led Legazpi Mayor Noel Rosal, president, Mayor’s League of the Philippines Bicol chapter.
The BicoLeni Express was launched by Bicolanos from all walks of life and aims for a non-stop Bicol Progress.
It will visit key places in the region to meet with the youth, transport sector members, women, religious, farmers and fisher folk and urban poor from across the region.
The Bicol Express train service is the famous mode of transportation in the region in the past decades, passing through the scenic view of the countryside.
In June 2011, the Bicol Express was brought back to life; unfortunately, the train trip from Bicol to Metro Manila and vice versa was interrupted again due to landslides that have affected the railways.
According to historical records, the maiden voyage of the Bicol Express was on Sept. 13, 1931 while the PNR track from Dagupan to Legazpi was completely connected on May 8, 1938.
The first railroad was built in 1875 through a royal decree issued by King Alfonso XII of Spain.
The train used to operate in over 479 kilometers of route from La Union to Bicol during the glory of the famous Bicol Express in Albay.
PNR undated historical file photos
Unfortunately, continued neglect in the past decades reduced PNR’s efficiency and railroad coverage in Bicol.
The problem was even aggravated by the increasing number of informal settlers along the tracks in the 1990s to date.
On June 29, 2011, the Bicol Express from Manila to Naga started in a new era, proved effective and appealing to commuters.
On March 13, 2012, the PNR service was extended from Naga City to Ligao City.
Today, the PNR train runs again from Naga City to Legazpi City only, but Bicolanos, aside from politicians, are clamoring for the complete and uninterrupted revival of Bicol Express.