Opposition Sen. Chiz Escudero yesterday welcomed the the new Philippine National Railway (PNR) commuter trains that ply the Tutuban, Manila to Sucat, Paranaque route, but urged government to speed up the rehabilitation of long-neglected rail links outside Metro Manila.
"It's good that commuters now have a cheaper and faster way of traveling around Metro Manila. The government however should fast-track the rehabilitation of the Luzon line," he said.
"One knows the potential of a hi-speed railway system that runs from La Union to Legazpi City, the businesses it will spawn, the jobs it will create and, most importantly, the pride it will generate," the 39-year old lawmaker from Sorsogon said.
He also said a well maintained rail network would complement existing highways to the provinces as well as ports and airports, adding that many growth areas in the world feature an integrated multi-modal transport system to ensure the faster movement of goods and people at competitive costs.
Although the government said the Manila-Bicol route will restart by the end of the year and that it is currently rehabilitating the Caloocan to Bulacan portion of the tracks, Escudero said it should also be planning for the long-term by conducting feasibility studies for other routes.
He also said government should also re-evaluate plans for establishing the Mindanao Railway System (MRS) to spur development on the island through the establishment of commercial centers along rail networks and stations.
The proposed MRS network will have a total length of approximately 1,726 kilometers consisting of eight lines that will connect Davao City to Zamboanga City, with the route passing Cotabato City, General San City, Butuan City, Cagayan de Oro City, Iligan City and Dipolog City.