6 new railways to look out for

Loreben Tuquero
6 new railways to look out for
Will we see these railways completed within the lifetime of the current administration?

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Transportation (DOTr) has allocated P100.6 billion or 98% of its 2020 infrastructure budget to its ongoing railway projects, 5 times its railway allocation for 2019. 

During the DOTr’s budget briefing on Thursday, September 5, Railways Undersecretary Timothy Batan outlined the goals of the railway sector by 2022, namely increase the:

  • route length of active railways (at least partially operable or fully-financed) from 1,144 kilometers to 1,900 kilometers
  • number of stations from 59 to 169
  • number of coaches from 221 to 1,425
  • number of passengers from one million to 3 million

The need to prioritize railways was heavily felt, given the lack of any approved infrastructure projects for the maritime and road sectors, and the approval of only two projects for the aviation sector.

Despite getting the largest chunk, the railway sector still suffered a funding gap of P191 billion for foreign-assisted projects, which account for most of the railways in the pipeline.

Out of the P781 billion committed to these projects by official development assistance (ODA) lenders, Japan committed P481 billion, China, P14 billion, and the Asian Development Bank (ADB), P286 billion.

How much are each of these railway projects worth, and what is their status so far?

1. North-South Commuter Railway System (NSCR)
National expenditure program (NEP) 2020 allocation: P84.7 billion
Total project cost: P777.55 billion
Source of funding: Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and ADB
Construction timeline: Partial operations by 2021, full operations by 2023
Capacity: 350,000 passengers daily
Status: 3 civil works contract packages opened for bidding in August

The 147-kilometer, 37-station mass transportation system aims to bridge Central Luzon, Metro Manila, and Southern Luzon by integrating Philippine National Railway (PNR) Clark 1, PNR Clark 2, and PNR Calamba. It is expected to shorten travel time from North Avenue to Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3 to 45 minutes.

The railway will also link the Light Rail Transit (LRT) lines 1 and 2, the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) line 3, and the forthcoming Metro Manila Subway.

It is the biggest project under the ‘Build, Build, Build’ program. (READ: Philippines, Japan sign $1.54-billion loan deal on North-South Railway)

2. Metro Manila Subway Project 
NEP 2020 allocation: P9.8 billion
Total project cost: P356.96 billion
Source of funding: ODA
Construction timeline: Partial operations by the 2nd quarter of 2022, main line completion by the 3rd quarter of 2025
Capacity: 365,000 passengers daily
Status: Groundbreaking ceremony was held last February

The 35-kilometer underground railway will span Valenzuela City to Parañaque, with a connection to NAIA Terminal 3.

By 2022, 3 stations are expected to be in operation, namely the Mindanao Avenue-Quirino Highway, Tandang Sora, and North Avenue stations.

By 2025, 15 stations will be operational, connecting Quirino Highway to NAIA Terminal 3 and cutting travel time down to half an hour with the trains running up to 80 km/h.

3. MRT3 Rehabilitation Project
NEP 2020 allocation: P5 billion
Total project cost: P21.97 billion 
Source of funding: ODA
Construction timeline: Completion by December 2022
Capacity: 650,000 passengers daily
Status: Ongoing procurement of supervision consultant

The rehabilitation project will cover restoration of assets including light rail vehicles, tracks, signaling system, overhead catenary system (OCS), communications sytem, and depot and station equipment. It will also undergo a 43-month maintenance period, which already started in May 2019 and will end in November 2022.

The MRT3 has deteriorated and runs at a slower operating speed – from 60 km/h to 30 km/h – and increased gaps between trains from 3.5 minutes to 7.5-10 minutes.

The deterioration was blamed on the “compounded effect of neglect, bad maintenance practices, and failure to undertake scheduled overhaul and upgrading works” by the previous maintenance provider. This prompted the DOTr-MRT3 to enact a comprehensive rehabilitation, repair, and restoration of MRT3.

4. Mindanao Railway Project
NEP 2020 allocation: P97 million
Total project cost: P82.9 billion (a 130% increase)
Source of funding: China ODA
Construction timeline: Start by the 1st quarter of 2020, target opening by the 4th quarter of 2022
Capacity: 110,000 passengers
Status: Ongoing pre-construction works and environmental impact assessment

The project targets reduced travel time from Tagum City, Davao del Norte to Digos City, Davao del Sur from 3 hours to one hour.

The 3 cities of Tagum, Davao, and Digos entered into a memorandum of agreement with P5.6 billion allocated to the acquisition of properties and administrative costs.

Its project cost jumped from P35.9 billion to P82.9 billion in July to cover changes in the cost of construction works and the addition of a satellite post in Davao City.

5. PNR South Long Haul 
NEP 2020 allocation: P877 million
Total project cost: P175.32 billion
Source of funding: China ODA
Construction timeline: Start by 4th quarter of 2019, partial operations by 2nd quarter of 2022
Capacity: 100,000 passengers
Status: Establishing control points

The 639-kilometer line will connect Metro Manila to the Southern Luzon provinces, shortening travel time from 12 hours via car to only 6 hours.

A loan agreement for the railway’s project management consultancy was signed during the bilateral meeting between President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping last August 29.

The PNR was earlier flagged for illegally using the funds for the PNR South Long Haul Railway to pay for security services costs incurred in 2017. The current organization of the PNR drew flak for its inefficiency and mismanagement. (READ: COA raises red flags over PNR ‘illegal use’ of funds)

6. LRT1 Cavite Extension
NEP 2020 allocation: P74 million
Total project cost: P64.9 billion 
Source of funding: Public-private partnership for civil works and electromechanical system, Japan ODA for light rail vehicles and depot
Construction timeline: Partial operability by 4th quarter of 2021, completion by 2022
Capacity: 300,000 to 500,000 passengers daily
Status: Ongoing piling works since September 1

The 11.7-kilometer extension will add stations in Parañaque, Las Piñas, and Cavite and will reduce travel time from Baclaran to Bacoor from 1-2 hours to 25 minutes.

It will also allow commuters coming from the Parañaque Integrated Terminal Exchange (PITX) to travel to and from Metro Manila. Cavite 7th District Representative Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla had earlier moved to suspend PITX operations until the LRT1 extension is completed. 

He also slammed the Light Rail Manila Corporation, consisting of Ayala Corporation, Metro Pacific Investments Corporation, and the Macquarie Group, for delays in construction of the LRT1 Cavite extension. – Rappler.com

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Loreben Tuquero

Loreben Tuquero is a researcher-writer for Rappler. Before transferring to Rappler's Research team, she covered transportation, Quezon City, and the Department of the Interior and Local Government as a reporter. She graduated with a communication degree from the Ateneo de Manila University.