FOR higher speeds and broader supplier options, the Philippine National Railways will reconstruct its existing railway system starting in the fourth quarter of 2018, a Department of Transportation official said.
“The current railway gauge we have is narrow. It limits our speed to 180 kph, while the standard gauge can go as far as 300 kph,” Transportation Assistant Secretary Timothy John Batan told The Manila Times on Monday, on the sidelines of the Asean Multi-sectoral Forum in Valenzuela.
The reconstruction does not necessarily mean the PNR aims to attain 300 kph overnight, but it is “preparing at least for the future, if the government can already afford it,” Batan said.
Maintaining a narrow gauge limits supplier options which the government is trying to address. “Almost 60 percent of the world is already using a standard gauge,” Batan said.
The transport sector is now discussing how to reconstruct the existing railway system without halting train operations, the Transportation official said.
“That is an ongoing discussion. There is a way to construct the new system without having to stop the current operations,” Batan said.
Expected to be completed before the Duterte administration ends its term of office, the North South Commuter Railway Project, connecting Malolos in Bulacan to Tutuban in Manila, will first be reconstructed, Batan said.
The Japan International Cooperation Agency is funding the $2.88 billion project with official development assistance.
Japan development loans to the Philippines carry a 0 .1 interest rate and are payable in 40 years with a 10-year grace period.