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ADB grants $2.75-billion loan for Malolos-Clark railway

The Asian Development Bank said Thursday it approved a $2.75-billion (P145-billion) loan for the construction of a 53.1-kilometer railway connecting Malolos, Bulacan to Clark International Airport in Pampanga province.

The Malolos–Clark Railway Project is a part of the government’s North–South Commuter Railway, a 163-km suburban railway network stretching from New Clark City in Tarlac province in the north to Calamba in Laguna province in the south of Manila. The NSCR project is expected to be completed by 2025.

It is expected to provide safe, reliable and affordable public transport to about 342,000 passengers who travel daily along the Manila–Clark corridor and up to 696,000 passengers per day to Calamba by 2025.

Once completed, it would cut the travel time from Metro Manila to Clark International Airport to less than one hour by rail, compared with two to three hours by car or bus today. The project is expected to be partially operational by 2022.

The project will help ease the current chronic road congestion in Metro Manila, reduce air pollution, cut the costs of transport and logistics, spur economic growth in Central Luzon and encourage a population shift from the capital to growth centers in the north such as Clark in Pampanga.

“ADB’s partnership with the Philippines has always been strong, and it has become stronger in the last three years,” ADB president Takehiko Nakao said.

“The government’s ‘Build, Build, Build’ program is clearly steering the much-needed acceleration in infrastructure spending, from less than 2 percent of gross domestic product a decade ago to 6.3 percent now, well on track to achieve the 7-percent target by 2022. One of the key flagship projects of the BBB program is the Malolos–Clark railway,” Nakao said.

Nakao said it would be ADB’s single largest infrastructure project financing ever and from a development perspective, “we are pleased this investment is taking place in ADB’s host country”. 

“The project, combined with other investments in light rail transit, metro rail transit and subway systems, will bring back the culture of rail transport in Metro Manila,” he said.

ADB’s 2018–2023 Country Partnership Strategy for the Philippines envisages significant and wide-ranging support for the BBB program, among other critical investments in education, financial inclusion and economic policy reforms.

ADB will finance the civil works of the Malolos–Clark Railway Project, including the stations, bridges and viaducts for the elevated railway alignment and a tunnel leading to the underground station at Clark International Airport. It will also assist the government in using global standards for procurement and environmental and resettlement safeguards.

The project is co-financed with up to $2 billion by the Japan International Cooperation Agency for the rolling stock and the railway systems.

“Our co-financing partnership with Jica allows both our institutions to combine our expertise and knowledge in building a world-class railway in the Philippines,” said ADB principal transport specialist for Southeast Asia Markus Roesner.

The project includes the construction of two rail segments―a 51.2-km section connecting Malolos City in Bulacan province to the thriving Clark regional growth center and a 1.9-km extension connecting the

NSCR to the Blumentritt Station in Manila, where an elevated interchange station for Light Rail Transit Line 1 will be built.

The rail stations will include multimodal facilities, allowing commuters to easily transfer from public buses and jeepneys to the trains. The underground station at the Clark International Airport will provide a short connection to upcoming and future airport terminals.

The project will be built on an elevated alignment, helping reduce the impact on communities, avoid disruption of activities and mitigate flood risks along the route. 

It will use innovative construction methods such as pre-fabricated viaduct segments which limit the need for land acquisition and accelerate construction. High-quality construction methods will be used to achieve the maximum rail speed of up to 160 km per hour.

Topics: Asian Development Bank , Clark International Airport , Takehiko Nakao , Markus Roesner
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