Five years after a supertyphoon battered the Bicol region and damaged vital bridges and stretches of railroad leading to Albay province. Finally, the Bicol Express train has returned to the land of Mayon Volcano!
Located 480 km south of Manila, Albay offers road travelers a clear view of the volcano, the province’s crown jewel said to rival Japan’s Mt. Fuji for its near-perfect cone.
The train clocked a total travel time of 12 and a half hours from Tutuban Central station in Manila to Ligao City in Albay province. The explorer run began at 10:05 p.m. on Wednesday and ended at 10:30 a.m. the following day, Thursday.
The initial ride to Albay took longer than advertised: The supposedly 10-hour trip at 110 kph was delayed due to a minor landslide along the route.
It was also slowed down by the other users of the railroad, mainly wooden pushcarts we call “skates” in Bicol. The skates have automotive ball bearings for wheels. Some skates are motorized. This is the makeshift transport for people and goods in most parts in Bicol. Passengers were rewarded with a breathtaking view of majestic Mayon.
The refurbished coaches offer comfort to passengers with first class, sleeper and economy coaches, as well as coaches for dining and cargo. The fleet of trains were donated by Japan East Railway Co. PNR spent about a billion pesos to repair some 400 kilometers of track.
The train service reaching Albay would retain its old name from the 1960s -Mayon Limited Express. It would start its regular daily trips to Albay province in January 2012 with the completion of a PNR bridge in Guinobatan town. The bridge would stretch the train’s reach to the towns of Camalig, Daraga and Legazpi City.
PNR expects its passenger base to increase from the 400,000 a month to 600,000. If current trends continue, the company said it would schedule more train departures per day and reduce waiting time from 30 minutes to 15 minutes to cope with rising demand.