700 KM Railway Project North-South Luzon ready for 5 years Completion

Inquirer file photo

700-Km Luzon rail project readied

MANILA, Philippines–Major components of a Luzon railway master plan spanning almost 700 kilometers will be finished by 2020, part of the government's broader goal to get more of the population to use mass transit systems and eventually reduce private vehicles on the roads, a senior Transportation Department official said yesterday.

The two projects, the 36.7-km North South Commuter Railway from Tutuban to Malolos in Bulacan and the 653-km North South Railway project-South Line (Manila to Legazpi City in Albay), to be implemented under a public-private partnership (PPP) structure, were approved by the National Economic and Development Authority Board on Monday.

The projects, which will "make the most" of the existing Philippine National Railways' right of way, were estimated to cost an initial P288 billion, Transportation Secretary Joseph Abaya said in a press briefing yesterday.

"For a mega city like Metro Manila, a consequence of a growing economy is the growing capacity of our people to own their own vehicles. Clearly, with our traffic, that is not the way to go. And the solution to that natural tendency is to develop mass transit systems," Abaya explained.

Abaya noted that the use of public transportation was still dominant, or 80 percent, against the 20 percent for private vehicles. But these were mainly through "smaller modes" like jeepneys, tricycles and UV Express units, he said.

"The direction is to migrate the smaller PUVs to mass transport systems and eventually migrate private [vehicle] owners into mass transit systems," Abaya said.

The department said the 36.7-km North South Commuter Railway was set to start construction by the first quarter of 2017 and would be completed by the third quarter of 2020 .The government said there would be 15 stations with an estimated 35-minute travel time. Initial demand by 2020 is seen at 340,000 passengers a day.

The larger North-South Railway Project-South Line will initially consist of a commuter railway operation between Tutuban and Calamba, Laguna.

It also includes a long haul railway operation between Tutuban and Legazpi, Albay, and the branch line between Calamba and Batangas as well as an extension between Legaspi and Matnog, Sorsogon. The department said construction here was estimated to begin in the first quarter of 2016 with the start of operations by the first quarter of 2020.

Abaya said the commuter railway be funded either by the government or through an overseas development assistance (ODA) loan. He added that talks were being set with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) for the latter option. The North South Railway Project-South Line would be funded via the government's PPP scheme, Abaya said.

A so-called phase three in the Luzon railway master plan was also in the pipeline, the department's presentation showed. This consists of a 575-km "long-haul north line" involving a Manila-Tarlac-San Fernando (La Union) stretch, and then Tarlac-San Jose (Nueva Ecija) and San Jose to Tuguegarao in Cagayan. - Inquirer.net

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