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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

PNR to halt Metro Manila rail operations

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The Philippine National Railways (PNR) will soon halt its rail operations in Metro Manila, according to sources.

PNR did not confirm the report, but said it would make the official announcement Friday.

The state-run company operates a commuter rail service between Tutuban, Manila and Binan, Laguna as well as a 101-kilometer route between Naga City and Legazpi City in Bicol region.

PNR announced last year that it would suspend its Metro Manila operations in 2024 to give way for the construction of the 147-kilometer North-South Commuter Railway (NSCR).

NSCR is among the biggest infrastructure flagship projects of the Marcos administration, together with the Metro Manila Subway Project.

The agency said the suspension of the rail service for five years would affect more than 35,000 daily commuters.

The NSCR, a railway network with 37 stations and 464 train cars, will have three segments—the PNR Clark Phase 1 (Tutuban-Malolos), PNR Clark Phase 2 (Malolos-Clark) and PNR Calamba (Solis-Calamba).

It is expected to begin partial operations from west Valenzuela to Malolos in the second quarter of 2027, while full operation will start in the third quarter of 2029.

The project aims to reduce travel time between Clark, Pampanga and Calamba, Laguna to just two hours and service over 800,000 passengers daily once operational. It is estimated to cost P873.62 billion.

Meanwhile, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) said Thursday it would only expropriate properties affected by major rail projects such as the Metro Manila Subway as last resort in resolving contentious right-of-way issues.

DOTr Undersecretary for rails Jeremy Regino said the expropriation of property would be the government’s last recourse should negotiations with affected property owners face an impasse.

“We have now shortened the negotiation process. If there will be no agreement, we will have to file expropriation proceedings but without prejudice to continue with the negotiations,” Regino said.

Regino joined Transport Secretary Jaime Bautista during the inspection of the Metro Manila Subway Project’s tunnel boring machine initial drive at the railway system’s North Avenue Station.

Regino said expropriation of property is not forced occupation, but rather a “just compensation.”

He said that once the government is granted a writ of possession, “it does not bar the continuation and conclusion of a successful negotiation.”

“We are doing our best to convince property owners, all things considered, that their concerns are already factored in,” he said.

He said the Metro Manila Subway’s completion is still well within the DOTr’s 2029 target.

The MMSP, the first underground railway in the country, is a 33-kilometer railway system that will connect Valenzuela City to Pasay City with a spur line at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3 in Paranaque City.

Itm is expected to reduce travel time from Valenzuela to NAIA from 1 hour and 30 minutes to 35 minutes once operational, servicing 519,000 passengers daily.

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