DOTC to propose $5-B PNR commuter rail

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The Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) would propose a $5-billion Philippine National Railway (PNR) commuter rail to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Board.

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“Hopefully, if we [could]get NEDA clearance on both Integrated Luzon Railway [IRL] and the North-South Commuter Railway, we can bid that out early 2014,” said Transportation and Communications Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya.

He added that the medium-term project of PNR involves a commuter rail from north to south in Malolos, Bulacan, in Manila and in Calamba, Laguna, noting that this will address the heavy traffic in Metro Manila.

He said that the proposed elevated commuter rail would be constructed above the existing rail of PNR. Initial cost of the commuter rail is between $4 billion and $5 billion.

DOTC said that the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is helping the government to complete the feasibility study for the commuter rail that would run from Malolos in Bulacan all the way to Calamba in Laguna.

Earlier reports said that there are feasibility studies for the proposed 900-kilometer (km) Integrated Luzon Railway (ILR) and the 90-km commuter rail link.

“The two PNR bids will be bigger than LRT1 [Light Rail Transit Line 1] at least $5-billion Malolos to Calamba,” Abaya also said.

The Transportation agency is also checking if the cost is too big for a public-private partnership (PPP).

He added that, “We have not gone to that point feasibility first after which we would sit down for the structure.”

“For Mega Manila, we are about to finish the FS, JICA is helping us on this and we will present it to NEDA board early 2014 or in the first semester of 2014 to get the procurement on this much-awaited project under way Integrated Luzon Railway,” Abaya said.

The project is basically revitalizing the entire length of PNR from as far as Cagayan or Isabela and as far down south in Sorsogon, Bicol.

Reports said that the proposed railway would cover the entire north and south networks of the state-run PNR. PNR’s north network runs from Manila to La Union as well as a branch line from Tarlac to San Jose, Nueva Ecija, and a possible extension to Cagayan while the south network traverses from Manila to Legaspi City, including the branch line from Calamba to Batangas City.

A Canadian consultant has been commissioned for this and the DOTC is awaiting the results soon. As soon as it finished by first quarter of 2014 and submitted to NEDA Board, it may be bidded out. It will take five to six years for both projects to be finished.

“So at least from our end we will get this going and hopefully the people who would replace us at DOTC will find this as viable project that will serve the people,” Abaya said.

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