MRail, a subsidiary of listed firm Manila Electric Co. (Meralco), has partnered with Enrique Razon Jr.’s International Container Terminal Services Inc. (ICTSI) for a P10-billion cargo railway project to revive the connectivity between the port of Manila and an inland container terminal facility in Laguna.
Under the agreement, the consortium said it would shell out P2.7B of the projected total cost of P10B for the initial phases of the project, which is projected to be completed in two years.
The project paves the way for the establishment of a freight railway service to deliver the goods by taking advantage of the existing PNR rail tracks, which provide an attractive and alternative mode to transport containerized cargoes.
The railway cargo project will entail rehabilitating the existing PNR tracks, restoring the Tutuban to the Port of Manila tracks that traverse through the center of C.M. Recto Ave., and the construction of the stabling yard in Calamba for the container trains.
Once operational, the railway cargo project is expected to ease port congestion at the ports of Manila. It will speed up flow of cargoes into a central trans-shipment hub connected to the port and closer to the inland destination.
ICSTI operated the cargo trains transporting containers from the port of Manila to Laguna using the Philippine National Railways’ (PNR) tracks from 1998 until it was discontinued in 2003.
Heeding importers’ and exporters’ call for efficient movement of goods, MRail submitted the railway cargo system project in 2015 to the previous administration.
Late last year, Mrail entered into a Track Usage Agreement (TUA) in principle with PNR to restore the connectivity between the south in Calamba and Port of Manila.
The agreement outlines the payment of Track Access Fees (TAF), train schedules, and the use of the railways and operating facilities as well as the manner of their maintenance, rehabilitation and development.
The importance of rehabilitating the country’s existing railways was highlighted by President Rodrigo Duterte in his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday in line with the government’s solution of addressing the chronic traffic congestion in Metro Manila.
In his SONA, President Duterte outlined the first big ticket transport infrastructure projects of his government – including the creation of three primary railways: the Bicol Express line, Mindanao Rail System and the Manila-Clark railway.
Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade believes railways will help alleviate the traffic situation in Metro Manila.
Among the infra projects being considered by the Department of Transportation (DOTr) is the implementation of a container rail service project in line with plans to move all cargo across the country via rail and roll-on/roll-off shipping.
The Duterte administration plans to spend up to P900 billion on infrastructure in 2017 and raise infrastructure spending to as much as seven percent of GDP within the president’s term.