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SMC breaks ground for P71-B railway project

Conglomerate San Miguel Corp. Wednesday launched a massive railway system that would link Metro Manila to Bulacan province by 2020, marking its first foray in the train business and its biggest investment outside food and drinks to date.

The groundbreaking ceremony for the $1.54-billion (P71 billion) Metro Rail Transit Line 7, the first new railway system to be built in traffic-strangled Metro Manila since the Light Rail Transit Line 2 opened in 2003, was held Wednesday.

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The 22-kilometer train line from Quezon City to San Jose Del Monte in Bulacan would be operated under a 35-year concession period by SMC-controlled Universal LRT Corp. MRT-7 is expected to be finished in 42 months, or three and a half years, according to its contractor, Hyundai Rotem-EEI consortium.

The project value means MRT-7 would be SMC’s biggest investment in line with its diversification. The plan was launched almost a decade ago and has allowed its business to grow beyond beer and hotdogs to power, airports, tollroads and oil refining.

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SMC president Ramon S. Ang said in his remarks to guests that included President Aquino that the MRT-7 would have an initial daily capacity of 350,000 people a day. It could be further expanded to handle about 800,000 passengers a day, Ang said.

Ang later told reporters that the train line would still be a relatively small part of SMC’s total business.

“I think revenue here by 2020 would be 5 percent of the sales revenue of San Miguel,” Ang said. He earlier announced that the company’s infrastructure arm, mainly through subsidiary San Miguel Holdings, would be a $20-billion business by 2020.

Big-ticket projects like the MRT-7 were a step in this direction. Ang said the MRT-7 project would have 14 stations, starting in North Avenue, Quezon City, all the way to San Jose, Bulacan. It will also have connections to the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 and Light Rail Transit Line 1.

The MRT-7, which had faced multi-year delays similar to other projects carried over from the previous administration, would cut the usual two-hour trip from Quezon City to Bulacan to 30 minutes, Ang said. Trains will operate at a speed of 80 kilometers an hour.

Ang said that apart from the main train line, SMC would build an intermodal transport terminal in San Jose that could accommodate 60 buses and a 23-km, six-lane highway linking the bus hub to the North Luzon Expressway.

The MRT-7 will help decongest Metro Manila and nearby areas by providing an alternative mass transit solution. At present, more than a million people pack themselves daily into Metro Manila’s three elevated train lines.

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“Good, reliable public transport systems are an essential part of development,” Ang said. “For wage-earners, it means having more choices when it comes to place of work. It gives our citizens greater access to education and healthcare. For senior citizens and people with disabilities, an efficient public transport system allows them to travel more freely.”

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TAGS: Business, economy, News, project, Railway, San Miguel Corp., SMC
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