Young trainspotters fascinated by Phl railways (2)

In many countries, railways are given utmost importance through funding, continuous maintenance, and other forms of support mainly by the State. While the same can be said in some ways for our existing rail lines, we can’t deny that the demand for a much more efficient railway transport system has grown more as the years go by.

To be fair, the past and current administrations have aided in the expansion of our existing elevated railways in Manila Light Rail Transit Line 1 (LRT-1) and Light Rail Transit Line 2 (LRT-2), and the Philippine National Railways. The same goes for ongoing and upcoming rail projects such as the Metro Rail Transit Line 7 (MRT-7), Metro Manila Subway, the proposed Metro Rail Transit Line 4 (MRT-4), and the ongoing North-South Commuter Railway project.

However, members of the “Philippine Train Enthusiasts and Railfans Club,” a group of young rail fans in the country, told Daily Tribune there should be a much bigger push for railways, given the high demand and volume of commuters, particularly in the metro.

“Currently, our government is fast-tracking some of the railway projects, which could be seen as an expansion of our railway sector. It’s much better for the government to expand our railways. It would benefit the majority of Filipinos as it would speed up our commute from Point A to Point B, as well as speed up the freight deliveries of goods,” PTERC member Karl Vincent Dyangco said.

PTERC has been conducting trainspotting activities and research on the historical background of our railways, including now-defunct lines. Moreover, they have also coordinated with the operators of the PNR, MRT, and LRT, providing suggestions on how to improve the railways as a service to the public.

Dyangco said they have also been in touch with professionals from the country’s railway sector, who take part in their discussions online, as well as in PTERC’s participation in dialogues with government entities.

“We were invited to take part in a focus group discussion led by the Light Rail Transit Authority where we raised suggestions on fast-tracking the distribution of student discounts. We also participated in the Light Rail Management Council’s ‘ikotMNL’ campaign for local tourism,” Dyangco said.

Within the group and their relatively small audience, they have also been working on a campaign to highlight the importance of the country’s railways. One notable campaign of theirs is #ShiftToRail, which is sometimes accompanied by #OneMoreRail, which is inspired by a running meme about governments being “car-centric”, putting up more expressways and lanes to curb heavy traffic.

Dirk Paul Celoso, one of the members, shared his frustration with the current North Luzon Expressway-South Luzon Expressway Connector Road project that is being erected along parts of the PNR line.
“I’m very disappointed with the placement of the Skyway over the PNR. It just shows that they want to create infrastructure for cars and private vehicles. But what if the government just went with the North-South Commuter Railway first, then it could benefit more people,” Celoso said.

Despite this, PTERC members believe there is still a bright future for the country’s railways if the government is willing to fund more lines that would serve more people. Given the effort to expand the country’s railway infrastructure, they believe that the historical preservation of old railways should also be on the table.

“Railway is not dead, but it is undermaintained. Once we start to maintain every part of our railways up to the farthest spots in the country, there’ll be a bright future for our railways. We should continue supporting it and show to the public that railways are better than having another road lane,” PTERC member Jan Maravilla said.

For Dyangco, “Railways in the Philippines have a bright future as they could also serve as the backbone of the economy. We hope the government will continue to invest in and fund the current operations and maintenance, as well as the new railway projects. Historically, we could revive the railways in the Philippines.”

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