SHORT-HAUL rail operator MRail, a unit of Metro Pacific Investment Corp. (MPIC), is pushing ahead with preparations to reopen the cargo rail service connecting Manila’s ports to inland terminals in Laguna, even though it is still waiting for approval from the Department of Transportation (DOTr), MRail’s president said on Monday.
The company is waiting for the approval of Transport Secretary Arthur Tugade, whose office is reviewing the project, MRail President Ferdinand Inacay said. Although no possible timeline for the approval has been given, Inacay said he is “confident” that the project will be approved before the end of the first 100 days of the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.
MRail partnered with Manila International Container Terminal (MICT) operator International Container Terminal Services Inc. (ICTSI) for the P10 billion project, which would initially connect the MICT with ICTSI’s inland terminal in Calamba, Laguna.
In an earlier interview, ICTSI Executive Vice President and MICT chief Christian Gonzalez said that the two terminals of the rail line, which would run mostly on the existing Philippine National Railway (PNR) line, could be ready within a few months after the project was approved.
MRail’s proposal to the government is to pay for access along the PNR line on a per-kilometer basis. MRail’s Inacay, meanwhile, said his company is using the time waiting for approval in looking for other local partners, as well as assessing equipment needs.
“We’re now finalizing all the terms of references for the locomotives and the wagons,” Inacay told reporters, adding that MRail was anxious to see if suppliers could reduce the eventual delivery time from the current estimate of 24 months.
“Any time the fat lady sings and we’re signed up, the order’s there,” Inacay said optimistically. “We’re very serious about this. Our other partner [ICTSI] is very keen to move this forward.”