Rail transport in the Philippines is a growing means of transportation for passengers and cargo in the country. Such means of transportation are used typically for rapid transport within major cites as well as long distance travel. The Philippine railway network consists of one commuter rail service provided by the Philippine National Railways (PNR), and a rapid transit system operated by the Light Rail Transit Authority and Metro Rail Transit Corporation. All three services are integrated through the Strong Republic Transit System, a project of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2003 which aims to provide a "reliable, seamless and integrated mass transit system that would be at par with international standards" through the unification of already-existing rail infrastructure under one transit system and fare structure.
Rail transport in the Philippines has been running for over 120 years, the first proposal was on June 25 1875 when King Alfonso XII of Spain promulgated the Royal Decree directing the Office of the Inspector of Public Works of the Philippines to submit a general plan of railroads in Luzon. The plan, which was submitted five months later by Don Eduardo Lopez Navarro, was entitled Memoria Sobre el Plan General de Ferrocarriles en la Isla de Luzón, and was promptly approved. A concession for the construction of a railway line from Manila to Dagupan was granted to Don Edmundo Sykes of the Ferrocarril de Manila-Dagupan on June 1, 1887. From the time the first rail tracks were laid in the Manila-Dagupan Ferrocaril line in 1891 and the colonial train had its first commercial run, until today when the Mainline South (Bicol line) is being rehabilitated under much public anticipation, Philippine trains have been running for 120 years.
At the Tutuban Central Terminal in a bustling district of old Manila, train journeys of the Philippine National Railways used to commence or terminate, to or from the north or south ends of Luzon, the largest Philippine island.
From the center of Manila towards Baguio in the north, the line ended in San Fernando, La Union while the south line stopped in Legazpi City in the Bicol region. To and from these points it carried people and their goods, their trade and livelihood.
Most of the improvements on the rail network were lost during the War. Of the more than a thousand route-kilometers of railroad before the war, only 452 route-kilometers were operational after it. On February 1, 1946, the US Army restored the control of the railway to the Commonwealth Government. On July 4, 1946 the American Government, never having recognized Aguinaldo’s declaration of Independence in 1898, granted its own version of Philippine independence. For several years after the War, work was undertaken on what could be salvaged of the railroad system.
The previous administration of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was actively pursuing the rehabilitation of rail transportation in the country such as the Philippine National Railways, through various investments and projects designed to revive Philippine rail transport, despite the numerous problems involved. Total reconstruction of rail bridges and tracks, including replacement of the current 35-kilogram (77-pound) track with newer 50-kilogram (110-pound) tracks and the refurbishing of stations, were part of the rehabilitation and expansion process.
The Philippine National Railways is a state-owned railway system in the Philippines, organized under the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) as an attached agency. Established during the Spanish colonial period, the modern PNR was developed only in 1984. It formerly operated around 479 kilometres of track on the island of Luzon, where most Philippine rail infrastructure is located. Because of this, PNR has become synonymous with the Philippine rail system.
A portion of the PNR network, specifically the Metro Manila portion of the network, is part of the Strong Republic Transit System (SRTS), and overall public transport system in the metropolis. It forms the backbone of all of Metro Manila's regional rail services, which extend to its suburbs and to provinces such as Laguna. However, other than reducing growing traffic congestion due to the rising number of motor vehicles in Metro Manila, PNR also aims to link key cities within the Philippines efficiently and to serve as an instrument in national socio-economic development.
However, the meeting of that goal has been beset with problems regarding degraded infrastructure and a lack of government funding, problems that are being rectified with current rehabilitation efforts. The rehabilitation of PNR, which has been touted by various administrations, seeks to not only tackle those problems, but also to spur Philippine economic growth through an efficient railway system. In 2007 the Philippine government initiated a rehabilitation project aiming to remove informal settlers from the PNR right-of-way, revitalize commuter services in Metro Manila, and restore the Manila-Bicol route as well as lost services in Northern Luzon. In July 2009, PNR unveiled a new corporate identity and inaugurated new rolling stock.
The Manila Light Rail Transit System is the main metropolitan rail system serving the Metro Manila area of the Philippines. There are two lines to the LRT: LRT-1, called the Yellow Line, and MRT-2, called the Purple Line. Although the system is referred to as a "light rail" system, arguably because the network is mostly elevated, the system is more akin to a rapid transit (metro) system in European-North American terms. The Manila LRT is the first metro system in Southeast Asia, built earlier than the Singapore MRT by three years. Quick and inexpensive to ride, the LRT serves 605,000 passengers each day. Every day around 430,000 passengers board the Yellow Line, and 175,000 ride the Purple Line.
Its 31 stations along over 31 kilometers (19 mi) of mostly elevated track form two lines. LRT Line 1, also called the Yellow Line, opened in 1984 and travels a north–south route. All of the stations of the LRT are elevated, expect for the Katipunan Stations (which is underground). They follow one of two different layouts. Most Yellow Line stations are composed of only one level, accessible from the street below by stairway, containing the station's concourse and platform areas separated by fare gates.
Many passengers who ride the LRT also take various forms of road-based public transport, such as buses, to and from a LRT station to reach their intended destination. A reusable plastic magnetic ticketing system has replaced the previous token-based system, and the Flash Pass introduced as a step towards a more integrated transportation system.
The Manila Metro Rail Transit System has a single line, MRT-3 or the Blue Line. Although it has characteristics of light rail, such as the type of rolling stock used, it is more akin to a rapid transit system. It is not related to the Manila Light Rail Transit System, a separate but linked system.
One of its original purposes was to decongest Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (EDSA), one of Metro Manila's main thoroughfares and home to the MRT, and many commuters who ride the MRT also take road-based public transport, such as buses, to reach the intended destination from an MRT station. MRT has been only partially successful in decongesting EDSA, and congestion is further aggravated by the rising number of motor vehicles. The expansion of the system to cover the entire stretch of EDSA is expected to contribute to current attempts to decongest the thoroughfare and to cut travel times. The single line serves 13 stations on 16.95 kilometres (10.5 mi) of line. It is mostly elevated, with some sections at grade or underground. The line commences at North Avenue and ends at Taft Avenue (Taft on the map), serving the cities that EDSA passes through: Quezon City, Mandaluyong, Makati, and Pasay. Ridership was initially far below expectations, since passengers had to climb long flights of stairs to enter a station, and fares were higher than on the LRT. Some stations have been retrofitted with escalators and elevators for easier access, and ridership has increased. By 2004 MRT-3 had the highest ridership of the three lines, with 400,000 passengers daily.
The automated guideway transit system in UP Diliman will be the first of its kind to be built in the Philippines. Plans for the system were revealed as early as December of 2010. The groundbreaking ceremony was held on July 18, 2011. It is still currently under construction and it will be developed within the campus of the University of the Philippines Diliman in Quezon City. It will serve as test track for the first mass transit system to be built and developed in the country by local engineers.
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