Philippine National Railways

Philippine National Railways

Infobox Public transit
name = Philippine National Railways

imagesize = 100px
locale = Philippines
transit_type = Railway
began_operation = 1892
system_length = 1,060 kilometres (479 kilometres in operation)
lines = 2 (with three spur lines)
track_gauge = 1067 mm (narrow gauge)
operator = Department of Transportation and Communications

Philippine National Railways (Filipino: "Pambansang Daangbakal ng Pilipinas"), also known by its acronym, PNR, is a state-owned railway system in the Philippines, organized under the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) as an attached agency. PNR, as of October 9, 2008, was under Mike Defensor, who was named acting chairman, by Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. [ [ PGMA names Defensor, Quevedo and two others to important posts] ] [ [, Defensor is new PNR chief] ] Established during the Spanish colonial period, the modern PNR was developed only in 1984. It currently operates 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), [ GMA Launches transit system] , Philippine Star, July 15, 2003] 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, [ NUMBER OF MOTOR VEHICLES REGISTERED: Comparative, JAN.- DEC. 2003, 2004, 2005] , Land Transportation Office, January 23, 2006] PNR also aims to link key cities within in the Philippines efficiently and to serve as an instrument in national socio-economic development. [ Mission Statement] , Philippine National Railways, retrieved April 19, 2007] 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.

The PNR network

The PNR network consists of two main rail lines: the North Main Line, commonly known as Northrail, and the South Main Line, likewise known as Southrail. In Metro Manila, the lines are also known as the Green and Orange Lines respectively.

Northrail has been abandoned since the late 1980s. It was a 266-kilometer (165-mile) line stretching from Manila to San Fernando City in La Union, with a 55-kilometer (34-mile) branch line starting in Tarlac City and ending in San Jose City in Nueva Ecija. There were also branch lines extending from Paniqui in Tarlac to San Quintin in Pangasinan, from San Fernando City to Barangay Del Carmen in Floridablanca, both in Pampanga, and from Balagtas in Bulacan to Cabanatuan City in Nueva Ecija. According to current maps, the branch lines to San Quintin from Paniqui and to Rosales from San Fernando no longer exist.

Southrail is a 479-kilometer (267-mile) line from Manila to Legazpi City in Albay, with a 5-kilometer branch line starting in San Pedro in Laguna and ending in Carmona in Cavite, as well as two other branch lines connecting Calamba with Batangas City, and Los Baños with Santa Cruz in Laguna. There also existed a branch line from Santa Mesa in Manila to Barangay Hulo in Mandaluyong City, although this no longer exists.

At present, only Southrail is open, as northbound rail services ended in the late 1980s. No direct connection currently exists between Northrail and Southrail.

Both routes are single-track (except in Metro Manila) and is built to the "Cape Gauge" of 1067 mm (3 feet 6 inches). This narrow gauge standard, which results in lateral instability, together with the age of most of the passenger rolling-stock — built in Japan and Madras (now Chennai) in India — means that trains run at very low speeds. While the Cape Gauge is not inherently bad (New Zealand and Queensland Rail in particular use the same gauge successfully), it does pose problems for high-speed operation. Compared to the newer Light Rail Transit and Metro Rail Transit systems, which are built to standard gauge (1435 mm or 4 feet 8.5 inches) and can run up to 80 km/h (49 miles per hour), [ Manila Light Rail Extension, Philippines] , Railway Technology, retrieved August 28, 2006] [ The MRT Line 2 System - The Purple Line] , Light Rail Transit Authority Railway Operations, retrieved August 28, 2006] PNR trains can only run up to 50 km/h (31 miles per hour). [ The train to Legazpi] , Lakbay TV, retrieved August 27, 2006]


Philippine National Railways, and the history of rail transport in the Philippines in general, has a very long and distinguished history. On June 25, 1875, by virtue of a decree issued by King Alfonso XII, the Inspector of Public Works of the Philippine Islands was requested to submit a general plan regarding a railway system on the island of Luzon. This study was completed and submitted after five months. The plan, submitted by Don Eduardo Lopez Navarro, was entitled "Memoria Sobre el Plan General de Ferrocarriles en la Isla de Luzón" ("Memoirs on the General Plan of Railways on the Island of Luzon"). The plan was approved, and on June 1, 1887, a concession was granted to Don Edmundo Sykes of the "Ferrocarril de Manila-Dagupan".

The Manila-Dagupan railroad (Ferrocarril de Manila-Dagupan), which constitutes much of Northrail today, [ Views from the Pampang: Railroad Towns] , Alex R. Castro, published in the Sun.Star Pampanga, taken from the Kapampangan Homepage, retrieved August 29, 2006] started construction on July 31, 1887, with the laying of the cornerstone of what would be Tutuban station. The line, 195 kilometers long, opened on November 24, 1892. By the time the Manila-Dagupan railroad commenced operations, the Ferrocarril de Manila-Dagupan became the Manila Railway Company, or MRC.

In 1916, by virtue of Act No. 2547, the MRC was nationalized and its assets were acquired by the Philippine colonial government. Expansion of the rail network as such was continued by the then-nationalized MRC well until 1940.

Prior to the Commonwealth of the Philippines, American chief executives had focused on expanding the highways and roads system of the country. Railways were not a priority and Filipino leaders at times criticized this policy as being too focused on promoting the American automobile and truck industry (see Corpuz, Arturo G. T"he Colonial Iron Horse: Railroads and Regional Development in the Philippines , 1875- 1935" . Quezon City : University of the Philippines Press , 1999.)

During the Commonwealth, efforts at industrialization included the extension of the existing rail network. The extension of the railroad to Legazpi City, for example, was completed in May, 1938. At the same time, proposals were discussed to build a railway system in Mindanao, to be powered by electricity produced by a planned hydroelectric plant in Maria Cristina Falls. The plan didn't go beyond the initial planning stages when World War II broke out.

Before World War II, Philippine railways provided prompt and regular services not only to Legazpi but also to Tabaco City, the Bicol Region's main Pacific port. Passenger and freight trains also ran northwards from Manila to San Fernando City in La Union. Unfortunately, World War II would prove disastrous to Philippine rail transport: out of the over 1,140 kilometers of track existing before the war, only 452 kilometers were operable. The United States Army, which briefly took over MRC after the war, pursued a plan of rehabilitation, and by February 1, 1946, when control of the Philippine rail network would be passed onto the Philippine government, forty percent of the network was rehabilitated.

Immediately after control was passed to the Philippine government, efforts were largely concentrated in the rehabilitation of the rail network and the restoration of rail services throughout the island of Luzon. Between 1954 and 1957, the MRC fleet of trains converted from steam to diesel engines. The conversion had proven to be expensive, and MRC incurred financial difficulties from 1957 to 1963. On June 20, 1964, by virtue of Republic Act No. 4156, MRC was given a new charter, and the company changed its corporate name to the present-day PNR. [ BRIEF HISTORY OF PNR] , Philippine National Railways, retrieved April 14, 2007]

Major floods in 1973 forced the closure of part of Northrail, while a major flood in 1975 washed out bridges east of Camalig on Southrail, causing trains from Manila to terminate there (12 km short of Legazpi) and leaving Legazpi City isolated from the rest of the railway system.

On July 23, 1979, President Ferdinand Marcos issued Executive Order No. 546, which placed PNR under the present-day Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) as an attached agency.

Following the suspension of services to Legazpi, buses increasingly took passengers away from PNR. However, shortly before the snap presidential election of 1986, then-President Marcos was able to restore rail service to Legazpi. PNR abandoned its line along the foothills of Mount Mayon, which was prone to flash floods and washouts. Instead a more westerly route was followed, passing through Daraga and finally rejoining the old line at Barangay Travesia in Guinobatan, bypassing Camalig station, which has now been abandoned. The incumbency of Corazon Aquino saw the worst times for PNR, with trains running no further than Naga or, at best, Polangui, Albay. It was also during Aquino's term that the last of Northrail, from Tarlac City to Dagupan City in Pangasinan, closed.

The administration of Fidel Ramos marked a period of recovery for the PNR. A one-billion peso loan from the Asian Development Bank financed the rehabilitation of Southrail to Legazpi, with John Howard of Australia replacing decayed wooden sleepers (ties) with pre-stressed concrete ones in certain sections of the line. The contractor, however, used the same old pre-World War II steel rails. Ramos even visited Legazpi for the ceremonial re-opening of the line, performed by DOTC Secretary Arturo Enrile, and the inaugural run.

During the Estrada administration, PNR was able to secure "new" coaches from the East Japan Railway Company — actually 12-year-old coaches no longer needed in Japan following conversion of a number of main lines in that country to standard gauge. This is in addition to trains acquired in 1992 under the Ramos administration.

The administration of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is actively pursuing the rehabilitation of PNR through various investments and projects designed to revive Philippine rail transport. However, the situation is still hampered by numerous problems, especially the large numbers of slum dwellers on the rail tracks throughout the entire rail system, except in the Makati City and Manila portions of Southrail and the first phase of Northrail, stretching from Caloocan City to Malolos City in Bulacan, where informal settlers were successfully relocated to housing settlements outside Metro Manila. Currently, twenty percent of track in Metro Manila has been cleared of informal settlers.

According to PNR general manager Jose Maria Sarasota II, the start of rehabilitation efforts on Northrail and Southrail is set to begin in September 2007. [ PNR rail rehabilitation to start September] , Philippine Daily Inquirer, April 22, 2007] Current efforts will involve the total reconstruction of rail bridges, as well as the replacement of rail track, replacing the current 35-kilogram track with newer 50-kilogram ones. Stations are also set to be remodeled as part of the rehabilitation process. The first phase, convering the entire Metro Manila portion of Northrail and Southrail, is set for completion in 2009.

Passenger services

PNR operates various passenger train services, which traverse (or have traversed) various parts of Luzon, as well as commuter train services in Metro Manila. It presently serves Metro Manila, as well as the provinces of Laguna, Batangas, Quezon, Camarines Sur and Albay. In the past, it also served Cavite and the northern provinces of Bulacan, Pampanga, Tarlac, Nueva Ecija, Pangasinan and La Union.

For regional passenger services, PNR designates first-class coaches as De Luxe. These usually have 2+2 abreast reclining seats that can be rotated for face-to-face meetings. Tourist coaches are similar to De Luxe but without air-conditioning. Economy coaches have face-to-face seats, 2+3 abreast. Passengers sleep sitting upright. More expensive than air-conditioned coaches with reclining seats, first-class sleeping-cars are air-conditioned, with two-tier bunks provided with fresh linen. One can also opt for non-air-conditioned sleepers and stretch out for the night's journey at much lower fares.

Metro Manila services

"Commex" and "Metrotren"

The "Commex" and "Metrotren" services serve as the backbone of Metro Manila's regional rail services, serving Metro Manila's various train stations, as well as areas as far south as Calamba City in Laguna. Trains have various frequencies and can be seen (and heard) running throughout the day. Blue and orange-painted General Electric locomotives attached with Commex or Metrotren cars of the same colors can be seen especially by those driving on the South Luzon Expressway. Some of these trains have a white band with "NORTHRAIL" written on the bottom, which indicates that it is a northbound rail service, rather than the more common southbound rail service.

Regional services

"Mayon Limited"

The "Mayon Limited" was more popular with the middle class. It had a dining car, air-conditioned sleeping cars, air-conditioned coaches with reclining seats, tourist class which also with reclining seats, as well as economy-class seating. Hauled alternatively by French Alsthom locomotives and General Electric locomotives, this heavy train was assisted northward from Legaspi station up the steep gradient leading to Camalig station in the foothills of Mayon Volcano by another locomotive pushing from the rear.

The "Mayon Limited" today still runs as a non-air conditioned service, with the air-conditioned service being taken over by the "Peñafrancia Express". The steep gradient has since been rerouted by the diversion line built in the 1980s.

"Prestige" and "Peñafrancia Express"

The "Prestige", with its 100% Japanese-built self-propelled coaches (it was the only train not to be hauled by General Electric locomotives), not only departed last (at 20:00) but was frequently the first of the three express trains to arrive. With priority over all other trains on its route, and calling only at Daraga, Ligao, Naga, Lucena, and Paco, it normally arrived in Tutuban station, Manila's Grand Central, before 5:00, making it a popular service with businessmen. The "Prestige"'s 48-seater air-conditioned coaches were somewhat narrower and lower than those built in Madras, which also contributed to the faster run.

The "Prestige" has since been replaced with a similar service called the "Peñafrancia Express", which run the same self-propelled Japanese coaches. However, unlike the "Prestige", the "Peñafrancia Express" calls at Naga, Lopez, Pagbilao, San Pablo City and Sampaloc, and runs somewhat slower than the "Prestige".

"Express" services

In the past, PNR operated two types of "Express" services: the "Dagupan Express" to Dagupan City and the "Bicol Express" to Legazpi City. These services were all-economy and originated at Tutuban station going north (for the "Dagupan Express") or south (for the "Bicol Express"). These services are no longer being operated today. The "Peñafrancia Express" is not an "Express" service.

Freight and hospital services

PNR operates a limited freight train service, known as "Cargo Express". Normally hauled by General Electric locomotives, these trains are usually scheduled to run in the evenings, to ensure that the goods they convey reach Legazpi City in time to be shipped to various locations in the Philippines and abroad the next day.

Unfortunately, PNR's financial difficulties have meant that "Cargo Express" operations, formerly an efficient freight service, are now much reduced. Many PNR freight cars can be seen stored out-of-use and in a dilapidated state in various station yards.

PNR also operates a limited mobile hospital service.


:"See List of Philippine National Railways stations"

Future expansion

Plans to rehabilitate and expand the Philippine railway network has been made a top priority of various administrations, since such actions would not only reduce the burden on the Philippine road network, but also cut down on traffic congestion, reduce travel times and spur economic growth. The rehabilitation and expansion of the PNR network is one of the key projects in the ten-point agenda of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. [ SONA - Executive Summary, July 2005] , Office of the President, July 21, 2005]

So far, South Korea and the People's Republic of China have offered to help restore Philippine railway services, with the former assisting with the rehabilitation and modernization of Southrail, [ Rehab of busy railway] , Manila Standard Today, December 15, 2005] and the latter helping to finance, build, and operate a rationalized Northrail service, [ Arroyo gives China go signal for Northrail] , Philippine Daily Inquirer, December 11, 2005] as well as helping to rehabilitate and modernize Southrail as well. [ China to fund extension of south Luzon railway] , Philippine Daily Inquirer, July 22, 2006] The Korean-funded portion covers the section of Southrail from Manila to Calamba, although present funding only covers the section of Southrail from Caloocan City to Muntinlupa City, [ South Manila Commuter Rail Project, Phase 1] , National Economic and Development Authority Project Profile, retrieved August 28, 2006] which also serves as the Northrail-Southrail connection. [ South Manila Commuter Rail Project, Phase 1] , National Economic and Development Authority Official Development Assistance Loan Data, retrieved August 28, 2006] The Chinese-funded portion covers the section from Calamba to Legazpi and further on to Matnog, Sorsogon. The Korean-funded Southrail project was originally expected to cost some 50 million US dollars but now costs around 70-100 million dollars. No figures have been released for the Chinese-funded portion of Southrail.

The Northrail project involves the upgrading of the present-day single track to a dual-track system, linking Manila to Malolos City in Bulacan, and further on to Angeles City and the Clark Special Economic Zone, as well as Diosdado Macapagal International Airport. This project is estimated to cost around 500 million dollars, with China providing some 400 million dollars in concessionary financing, as much of the right-of-way on Northrail will be brand-new. [ RP, China break ground for Manila-Ilocos railway] , Malaya, April 6, 2004] Construction began in early November 2006. [ De Castro bats for hiring of squatters for NorthRail project] , Philippine Daily Inquirer, November 6, 2006]

Congress has lately passed a bill to restore, rehabilitate, and modernize old existing lines, and extend lines northwards to Tuguegarao City in Cagayan and to Laoag City in Ilocos Norte, and southwards as far as Matnog in Sorsogon, which is covered by the Chinese-funded Southrail project. The bill also provides for the construction of a four-line Mindanao Railway, which could benefit from Thai financing, [ Mindanao Railway System, Segment 1, Phase 1] , National Economic and Development Authority Project Profile, retrieved August 28, 2006] and the restoration of the two-line Panay Railway, which was not originally operated by PNR.


* Chinese to rebuild 400km North Line [ [ Railways Africa - NEW PHILIPPINE LINE ] ]


ee also

*Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC)
*List of Philippine National Railways stations
*List of Strong Republic Transit System stations
*Strong Republic Transit System (SRTS)
*Transportation in the Philippines

External links

* [ Philippine National Railways]
* [ North Luzon Railways Corporation]
* [ Railways and Industrial Heritage Society of the Phils., Inc.]
* [ Philippine Railways SIG Blogsite]
* [ Philippine Railways SIG and Forum Official Website.]

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