Long-haul passenger rail and commuter rail line
The North-South Railway Project (NSRP) is a proposed railway line between Metro Manila, the National Capital Region (NCR) of the Philippines and Legaspi City, the capital of Albay province.
The project is a part of the Government of Philippines’ (GOP) objective to catalyse economic and urban growth in the most populous regions of the islands by providing critical connectivity through a world-class passenger rail service.
The NSRP revitalises the oldest rail system in south-east Asia, by delivering a 56km-long commuter rail or North-South Commuter Railway (NSCR) and a 653km long-haul passenger rail services between Metro Manila and the under-served regions in South Luzon.
The project is being jointly implemented by the Philippines’ Department of Transportation (DOTr) and Philippines National Railways (PNR). It was approved by the National Economic and Development Agency (NEDA) Board in February 2015.
In November 2018, an extension of the NSCR was approved to develop a 147km commuter rail with an estimated investment of PHP777.55bn ($15.1bn). Construction on the first phase of the commuter rail project between Tutuban in Manila and Malolos in Bulacan extending over 38km started in February 2019. The estimated cost of the first phase is $2.88bn and it is expected to commence operations in 2021.
The North-South railway project was officially launched by the DOTr and the PNR in July 2015, marking the start of the bidding process for the South Line, the Manila-Legazpi section.
The project is aimed at providing better transportation and logistics services between two rapidly-growing urban regions in Philippines. Metro Manila, where the project originates, is the country’s largest city in terms of urban density, with a population of approximately 12 million. With 48 million residents, the island of Luzon is the biggest and most populous island in the country.
The PNR’s long-haul commuter service between Tutuban and Legazpi has been suspended since October 2012 due to integrity issues along the line. The 56km commuter rail service from Tutuban to Calamba, Laguna, has also been recently halted. The rail service is currently limited to a 35km-long daily commuter rail from Naga City to Sipocot. The completion of the NSRP South Line, that establishes a long connection in the region, is essential to resolving the connectivity issues on the corridor.
The initial feasibility study conducted on the project concluded that executing the entire project in a public-private partnership (PPP) method would not be feasible. An additional study on the southern section of the NCR was conducted to find out the viability of the commuter rail project when combined with the Mainline South of the NSRP.
The combined NSRP South Line project, consisting of more than 650km of commuter and long-haul railway lines, was found to be viable in a PPP format.
The North-South railway project comprises two components. The first component is a 653km (478km main line and 175km extension) long-haul passenger rail line from Tutuban, Manila, to Legazpi, Bicol, with possible extensions from Calamba, Laguna, to Batangas City (58km) and from Legazpi, Albay, to Matnog, Sorsogon (117km).
The second component includes a 56km commuter rail line or the NSCR for daily riders on the Tutuban, Manila to Calamba, Laguna route. An extension of the NSCR approved in 2018 now includes two additional sections including the 38km PNR Clark Phase one from Tutuban to Malolos and the 53km PNR Clark Phase two from Malolos to Clark. The entire 147km elevated double track line will include 36 stations and connect Clark International Airport to Calamba.
The design and construction of the long-haul passenger rail line will include restoration and renovation of the existing track for safe use, as well as upgrades for attaining a design speed of 75km/h and allowing a maximum permissible axle load of 15t.
The Philippines railway project will also include repair and replacement of more than 420 bridges and development of 15 stations and three depots. The new line will be served by diesel-powered multiple unit rolling stock comprising six eight-car trains with additional spares.
The design approach of the commuter rail or NSCR includes double tracking of the entire route from Tutuban in Manila to Calamba with a design speed of 75km/h. It also includes modernisation and development of 19 stations and depot facilities in Calamba, minimisation of impact of road crossing, and the addition of pedestrian overpasses at required points.
Phase one of the North-South Commuter Railway line between Tutuban and Malolos will include more than 30km of viaducts, seven river railway bridges along with a 7km-long elevated embankment.
A total of ten rail stations will be developed along with provision for five more stations. A depot, workshop and control centre are also part of phase one.
The stations in this phase will include Tutuban, Solis, Caloocan, Valenzuela, Meycauayan, Marilao, and Bocaue, Balagtas, Guiginto, and Malolos.
Construction of the line has been divided into two packages. The construction of the Bocaue to Malolos section of the line commenced in February 2019, while construction of Tutuban to Bocaue section of the line commenced in May 2019.
The rolling stock for the line will constitute 14 electric multiple unit-based, eight-car trains, which will be increased to 32 by 2044.
The project will also include the installation of electromechanical, signalling, communication and automatic fare collection systems.
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) signed an agreement to provide advice to the DOTr on the PPP structure and the bidding process. In May 2019, ADB approved $2.75bn in financing for the Philippines railway project.
In November 2015, the government of Philippines and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) signed a JPY241.99bn ($1.992.17bn) loan agreement for the phase one construction of the commuter line between Malolos and Tutuban.
JICA is also funding the detailed engineering design of the commuter line, which was in its final stages as of June 2017.
For construction of the 653km long-haul passenger rail, the Philippine Government is seeking financial assistance from China under a financing scheme being offered by the Export-Import Bank of China. The government has submitted relevant applications to the Chinese Government for the loan as of January 2017.
Construction of the first package of phase one of the commuter rail was awarded to a joint venture of Taisei Corporation and D.M. Consunji, while the second package was awarded to a consortium of Sumitomo-Mitsui Construction.
NSTren Consortium is the construction supervision consultant for phase one of the Philippines railway project.
The DOTr awarded the consulting contract to CPCS Transcom (CPCS), under which the firm acts as a lead transaction advisor and conducts pre-investment studies to assess feasibility, structures the project as a PPP and provides support during the tender and negotiation processes.
Sumitomo Corporation received a $230m contract from the DOTr to supply 104 train sets for phase one of the commuter rail in July 2019. The train sets are scheduled to be delivered by February 2023.
Oriental Consultants Global and SMEC have been appointed as the general consultants for phase one of the project to provide detailed design, and manage and supervise construction.
The proposed line will handle ten daily trips, with seven train sets, passing through 66 stations. It is expected to carry 316,000 passengers a day in the initial year of operation. Approximately 44,000 public and private vehicle users are anticipated to shift to the new railway service.
The NSRP is expected to cut travel time from Malolos to Tutuban to 35 minutes even during rush hour, while providing reliable, timely and consistent service.
Further, the travel time between the Clark International Airport and Central Manila is expected to be reduced to approximately one hour.
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