Govt eyes elevated rail project in Luzon

The government plans to build a $5-billion elevated commuter railway from Bulacan to Laguna, in place of the North Luzon Railways project that was scrapped by the Aquino administration.
Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya said his agency had asked the Japan International Cooperation Agency to conduct a feasibility study on the 90-kilometer elevated commuter railway from Malolos, Bulacan to Calamba City in Laguna that could cost between $4 billion and $5 billion.
Abaya said the feasibility study was expected to be finished by the first quarter of 2014.
“Roughly the cost of this commuter rail is between $4 billion and $5 billion. After doing the feasibility study, we will have it approved by the National Economic and Development Authority,” Abaya said.
He said the planned elevated commuter rail would use the right of way of the Philippine National Railways from Malolos to Calamba spanning a stretch of 90 kilometers.
Abaya said the agency also signed a consulting contract with CPCS Transcom Ltd. of Canada to prepare a feasibility study on the proposed Integrated Luzon Railway system that would cover the entire “PNR mainline” North and South networks.
The north section of the proposed project will cover the provinces of La Union, Tarlac, Nueva Ecija, Isabela and possibly Cagayan.The south section will stretch from Metro Manila to Calabarzon and the Bicol region.
“We are not necessarily talking about bullet train here, but at least we have a decent rail system that could service the airport. It is nice to see that we have a speed rail, but if you ask the Department of Tourism, high speed rail also comes with high-priced ticket. At least with what we are planning with the commuter rail and the Integrated Luzon Railway, we will have service from Manila to Clark via a link,” Abaya said.
Abaya said the agency was evaluating if the elevated commuter rail project would be funded through the public-private partnership program.
“We will also study the structure, by which the agency rolls out the project. Whether it is a PPP, or have the government build it and bid out the operations and maintenance. But nothing is clear yet,” Abaya said.
He said the agency was also looking at tapping the official development assistance fund to finance the construction. “If it’s ODA, the funding will come from the national budget. But again, we have no decision yet,” he said.

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