The Philippines’ Department of Transportation (DOTr) has contracted a joint venture (JV) of three Chinese firms for the development of the first package of the Philippine National Railways South Long Haul project (PNR Bicol).

This $2.76bn (PHP142bn) design-build contract was signed with the JV of China Railway Group, China Railway No 3 Engineering Group, and China Railway Engineering Consulting Group (CREC JV).

The scope of the deal includes design, construction, and electromechanical works for the project’s initial 380km, stretching from Banlic, Calamba to Daraga, Albay.

It will pass through two regions, four provinces, and 39 cities and municipalities.

Under this project, a total of 230 bridges, 23 stations, ten passenger tunnels, along with a 70ha depot in San Pablo, Laguna will be established.

PNR general manager Junn Magno said: “We welcome this development full of enthusiasm as we will be working with rail experts known for their efficiency and speed in building long haul railways. This, along with our earnest goal to provide comfort and convenience to our commuters, will make this dream project a reality.”

With a length of 565km, PNR Bicol will link Metro Manila to the southern Luzon provinces of Sorsogon and Batangas.

After completion, it is expected to reduce journey time between Metro Manila and Bicol to four hours from the present 12 hours by road.

The route will enable passenger trains to operate at a speed of up to 160km/hr, and freight trains at a speed of up to 100km/hr.

This project, during the construction phase, is anticipated to generate over 5,000 direct job opportunities annually.

In August 2020, DOTr granted two civil works contracts valued at nearly PHP38bn ($728m) for the Malolos–Clark Railway Project.