MRail Inc. and International Container Terminal Services Inc. (ICTSI) are planning to revive the cargo rail service that would link the Manila International Container Terminal (MICT) to ICTSI’s inland container depot in Calamba, Laguna.
In a statement, MICT operator ICTSI said it has arrived at a commercial cooperation agreement with MRail to connect the Manila terminal to the Laguna Gateway Inland Container Terminal (LGICT).
ICTSI in 2015 invested P660 million to develop LGICT.
MRail president and chief executive officer Ferdinand Inacay said the rail project will cost P10 billion, of which P2.7 billion will be allocated for capital outlay, including the acquisition of eight locomotives and 120 wagons.
The project involves rehabilitating Philippine National Railways (PNR) tracks from Tutuban to the Port of Manila and constructing a stabling yard in Calamba for the container trains.
The cargo rail service should be operational 24 months after contract signing.
ICTSI said it has been in discussions with MRail, a wholly owned subsidiary of Manila Electric Co. (Meralco), to help alleviate the traffic problem in the greater Metro Manila area.
“Both companies believe that in order to propel the country’s economy, it is important to urge provincial development and to limit the traffic being experienced in urban areas,” the MICT port operator said.
ICTSI in 1997 operated a freight rail leading to its inland container depot in Calamba, but stopped in 2003 due to losses and competition from trucks.
Inacay said the PNR Board had approved the rail project in January this year, but on January 28, PNR and MRail postponed signing a deal that would give MRail the right to use PNR tracks for 25 years.
The project was further delayed by the election ban as it was approved by the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel on April 28, just days from the May 9 election.
Inacay said they are hopeful government will now approve the project by the fourth quarter of the year, especially since Transport Secretary Arthur Tugade has already announced plans to transport containerized cargoes by rail to decongest roads of trucks.
ICTSI has said that the transport of containers via rail will “substantially decrease the number of trucks that the public competes with on a daily basis in utilizing the roads.”
After connecting the Manila port to Laguna, MRail eyes linking Manila Port to Clark, then Clark to Subic, and then adding a connection from Calamba to Batangas so that all major ports in Luzon are connected via rail.
MRail has also shown interest in the Mindanao Rail Project that President Rodrigo Duterte is eyeing as one of the government’s key rail projects.