BACK IN SERVICE SOON The Philippine National Railways is diverting 10 to 12 sets of trains from the idle Metro Manila line to two neighboring regions. MARIANNE BERMUDEZ

MANILA, Philippines – With its operations in Metro Manila suspended for five years, the Philippine National Railways (PNR) will transfer its current fleet of trains to serve passengers in the southern regions of Luzon and Bicol.

PNR operations chief Joseline Geronimo said the 10 to 12 train sets used on the Metro Commuter overhead line would be migrated to Laguna, Quezon and Bicol provinces.

The transfer is expected to be completed in July, she said at a news conference on Monday.

READ: 5-year PNR line closure will begin on March 28

“We aim for around three months to fully migrate our rolling stock [to these areas],” she said. “We will first bring back operations [for] shorter trips until we can fully restore long-distance travel from Calamba (Laguna) to Legazpi (Albay) and vice versa.”

The Metro Manila line was suspended starting March 26 to make way for the construction of the North-South Suburban Railway (NSCR). For the estimated 20,000 regular commuters affected, the Department of Transportation offered additional buses as optional trips for their daily commute.

READ: PNR: North-South suburban railway from Laguna to Pampanga completed in 2028

3 routes still active

The PNR now operates three lines, with just two daily trips each: Calamba to Lucena and vice versa; Sipocot to Naga and vice versa; and Naga to Legazpi and vice versa.

The line of more than 200 kilometers that connects Lucena to Sipocot is not yet operational.

Since last year, the PNR has been completing the “strengthening of the foundations of our railways and bridges”, said Gerónimo.

Its current active rolling stock consists of 13 diesel-powered locomotives, seven railcar sets, and eight diesel-powered multiple unit sets.

Clark-Calamba Railway

The closure of the PNR Metro Commuter line – which runs from Gov. Pascual in Malabon to Tutuban in Manila, and all the way south to Alabang in Muntinlupa City – was intended to make way for the construction of the 147km NSCR running from Pampanga to Laguna .

Also known as the Clark-Calamba Railway, the NSCR will have 36 stations and aims to provide connectivity within the Greater Manila area, cutting travel time from the usual three hours to just two hours.

The P873.62 billion project is expected to be completed by 2028 and serve up to 800,000 passengers per day.

The Land Transport Franchising and Regulatory Board granted special authorization to 50 buses to run routes close to the PNR metro suspended line.

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Affected passengers, however, face longer travel times and higher fares – from the P30 they pay for an end-to-end train ride, to P70 when switching to buses. INQ