The Philippine National Railways or PNR has been making headlines for the past few days. The transportation department, PNR’s mother agency, is bent on improving the state-run train system to ease traffic problems caused by the major road constructions in the metro. Media reports say that PNR will be launching a special coach service in March featuring air-conditioned train sets (although trains now are air-conditioned too) with reclining seats.
But what is it really like to ride the PNR train nowadays?
I recently tried riding the PNR train for the very first time. Here are some random thoughts that I had (or you’ll probably have too) while on board the PNR train.
1. You realize that the adage “The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching” is true.
The PNR works on an honor or honesty system. Riding the PNR is all about telling the truth and staying true. You get to the platform, buy your tickets and submit yourself to some security check. But in every step of the way, you have every chance to tell a lie or even lies. You can actually buy the cheapest ticket and alight at the farthest station. No one’s really checking if you’ve paid the right fare or if you’ve bought a ticket at all. And they aren’t really strict with bulky baggages or packages so there is a high chance that contrabands pass through security without being seized. It’s really up to you if you’ll be honest or not.
2. Train stations or platforms are not maintained at all.
You’re lucky if you could spot a seat or a bench you can sit on. Plus, restrooms are almost always closed for maintenance or renovation. Some signs are outdated too. So there are times when you need muster some courage to ask help from strangers.
3. Riding the PNR is a waiting game and definitely not for the faint of heart.
The interval between trains is quite long so be prepared to wait. On weekdays, the waiting time between trains is around 30 minutes. But be ready to wait longer during holidays or weekends because trains only arrive at stations every hour.
If you have motion sickness, then be extra cautious when taking the PNR. The whole ride can be bumpy! It feels like the train could get derailed any minute. This is definitely not for the faint of heart.
4. You take it not because it’s fast but because the fare is cheap.
I believe PNR trains do not run as fast as their MRT or LRT counterparts. You also have to wait for a few minutes or even up to an hour before you can board a train. But definitely, taking the PNR train is the cheapest way to go around the metro or even some towns in Laguna. You take it despite it’s miserable state because it can also get you to places that aren’t served by MRT or LRT. Imagine, if you’re coming from Tutuban, Manila, you can get to Alabang for just P25!
5. You wonder why there are defunct stations or neglected coaches.
What happened to the Caloocan station? How about the Bicol Express? Or the sleeper coaches? Anyare?
6. You daydream about seeing the abandoned Paco station come to life once again.
You see the ruins of what once was the Paco PNR station and you realize that it is the closest thing we can have to train stations we usually see abroad like the Grand Central Station in New York. But now, it’s nothing. And somehow you wish that the government would do something to save the Paco Station.
7. The PNR can still be improved in so many respects.
It is sad that the DOTC people is just starting to realize now how an effective and efficient public transportation system can ease traffic problems in the country. Why just now? Who told you that trains are obsolete?
Nevertheless, just revive the whole of PNR please!