President Benigno S. Aquino III delivers his message during the 115th Anniversary of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) at the DPWH Quadrangle, Central Office in Bonifacio Drive Port Area, Manila City on Thursday (June 20, 2013). This year’s theme: “Sa DPWH, Bawat Isa, Tulay sa Pagbabago”. DPWH is mandated to undertake the planning of infrastructure, such as national roads and bridges, flood control, water resources projects and other public works, and the design, construction, and maintenance of national roads and bridges, and major flood control systems. (MNS photo)

President Benigno S. Aquino III delivers his message during the 115th Anniversary of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) at the DPWH Quadrangle, Central Office in Bonifacio Drive Port Area, Manila City on Thursday (June 20, 2013). This year’s theme: “Sa DPWH, Bawat Isa, Tulay sa Pagbabago”. DPWH is mandated to undertake the planning of infrastructure, such as national roads and bridges, flood control, water resources projects and other public works, and the design, construction, and maintenance of national roads and bridges, and major flood control systems. (MNS photo)

MANILA (Mabuhay) – Senator Cynthia Villar on Wednesday expressed hope the December opening of Philippine National Railways (PNR) will assure the line will be safe and cost-effective.

Her reaction is based on the letter dated September 2, 2014 of Atty. Diosdado Silva, Philippine National Railways Asst. General Manager, informing her that the resumption of the Bicol Express operations originally scheduled this September 2014 in time for the Feast of Our Lady of Penafrancia in Naga City will be moved to December 2014.

“The change in our timelines is due to safety concerns caused by Typhoon Glenda which hit Luzon last month wherein debris all over our tracks have to be cleared and reinforcements need to be done on certain sections of our embankments which have become unstable,” Silva explained in his letter.

Villar, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Government Corporations and Public Enterprises, recalled that when the Senate was deliberating on the bill extending the life of PNR to another 50 years last June, she asked PNR officials for the timetable in the resumption of the Bicol route, which was suspended after a derailment incident in Sariaya, Quezon two years ago.

“The PNR assured us that they will be availing the services of competent individuals to assess the structural integrity of the tracks, bridges and station facilities along this line. A certification must be issued before people are allowed to use the trains,” Villar recalled.

“The December opening will be timely, as many Bicolanos will be heading home to spend the holidays with their family,” she added.

Silva also told the lady senator that a number of projects are already completed leading to the reopening of the Bicol Express, including the Tagkawayan Bridge, and the painting of steel bridge superstructures in the Lucena area. Nearing completion are the construction of the San Cristobal and Traversia Bridges, as well as the painting of 34 steel bridge superstructures in Naga City.

He reminded the veteran lawmaker that the PNR Board has already approved the short list of qualified bidders for the required independent safety assessment of Bicol Express. (MNS)