Thursday, September 4, 2014

Gov't urged to take PNR funding challenge

What about the PNR?

While its focus  – and resources – seem to be concentrated on the breakdown-prone Metro Rail Transit,  Sen. Ralph Recto said government should also turn its attention to MRT’s poor cousin – the  Philippine National Railways, “an aging workhorse which  still ferries  25 million passengers yearly.”

“Kahit konting pagtingin sana mabigyan ang PNR,” Recto said, citing the wide disparity in the proposed budgetary support between the two rail lines.

While the MRT is slated to receive at least P6.7 billion in subsidy in 2015, the PNR will only get P546 million, based on the proposed 2015 national budget.

Even in rehabilitation, something like P54 billion is being floated around as the amount needed to fix MRT’s problems, Recto said.

“In contrast, nobody it seems is officially lobbying for more funds for the PNR. One gets the feeling that while one is on its way to modernization, the other is bound for the scrap yard,” Recto lamented.

But Recto warned that “to ignore PNR is to forfeit on its potentials.”

He explained that just doubling the number of its trains plying the 44-kilometer Tutuban, Manila- Sta. Rosa, Laguna line could raise its daily ridership to 140,000.

“This is one-fourth the number of passengers taking the MRT everyday. Adding more PNR trips will relieve the pressure on MRT and give many commuters an alternative,” Recto said.

Recto said next year’s subsidy for PNR of P546 million won’t allow it to rehabilitate more trains.

“According to the PNR management, it needs about P600 million to put three trains, with three to four coaches and an engine each, back in service,” Recto said.

“If this is indeed the cost, then I would urge the government to include it in the 2015 national budget,” he said. “It should also study the option of buying new ones.”

“In terms of potential ridership, PNR’s quoted amount in repairing some of its rolling stock is way cheaper than, say, building a road and buying buses. According to the DPWH , P600 million can only build you 30 kilometers or even less of a one-lane highway,” Recto said.

Doubling PNR’s rolling stock will displace 14,000 cars on the road at a per passenger cost that is 1/8th of the subsidy government pays for one MRT rider, the senator pointed out.

Government subsidizes PNR passengers to the tune of P5 each while it is P40 per rider over at the MRT.

At present, PNR’s Tutuban-Sta. Rosa service, a fraction of its once extensive 1,110-kilometer network, operates from 5 a.m to 7 p.m daily with 23 stops in between. 

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