DOTC, PNR to pursue $2.5B railway project

By: Miguel R. Camus, May 6th, 2013 05:03 AM

MANILA, Philippines—The transportation department is moving forward with a “long-overdue” proposal for a $2.5-billion public private partnership (PPP) project meant to further develop and upgrade Luzon’s railway system, whose largest operator is the state-run Philippine National Railways (PNR).

The PPP Center and the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) signed last Friday a consulting contract with Canada’s CPCS Transcom Ltd. to prepare the feasibility study for the proposed PNR Integrated Luzon Railway project.

The project has been tagged among the “ambitious” PPP proposals of the government.

The announcement was made by the PPP Center through social networking site Twitter. It said the feasibility study was expected to be completed “by December 2013.” There were few details on the Integrated Luzon Railway itself although the PPP Center website noted that the project aimed to cover the entire “PNR mainline” North and South networks.

This includes the mainline north, from Manila to La Union as well as a branch line from Tarlac to San Jose, Nueva Ecija, and a possible extension to Cagayan, information on the PPP Center’s website showed. The mainline south refers to Manila to Legaspi City, including the branch line from Calamba to Batangas City, the center said.

It is unclear how the new project will provide a clear master plan for Luzon, given that north and south lines have different operators.

PNR spokesman Paul de Quiros said in an interview that PNR’s operations, for instance, were limited to the south line and within Metro Manila.

PNR conducted a test run of the so-called Bicol Express between Manila and Naga City in mid-2011 but these were temporarily suspended for repairs following typhoon damage.

The north line, meanwhile, is being run by North Luzon Railways Corp.

Despite its limited routes, De Quiros noted that the PNR’s operating Manila line still served an estimated 60,000 to 70,000 passengers daily.

The PPP Center and the DOTC said they believed that those numbers could shoot up if the Integrated Luzon Railway would be proven feasible in reviving freight operations.

“This will provide a convenient, affordable and environment-friendly alternative transportation for people and their goods,” the PPP Center said.

Additional details, such as the timing for the project, were not disclosed while PPP Center executive director Cosette Canilao did not immediately respond for comment.

The PPP Center has identified several other “ambitious” projects. These are the Plaridel Bypass Toll Road, a 24.61-kilometer stretch connecting five Bulacan municipalities, the Manila-Makati-Pasay-Parañaque mass transit project and the Batangas-Manila natural gas pipeline project.

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