NSCR breaks ground in a week

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The Department of Transportation on Thursday vowed the line should be operational some 32 months from when the project breaks ground. contributed photo

The 38-kilometer rail line from Tutuban in Manila to Malolos in Bulacan will finally break ground on 15 February, the Department of Transportation said on Thursday.

The project is an entirely new endeavor involving the construction of a fully-elevated, fully electrified double-track railway with 10 stations

This was learned at the ‘Straight Talk’ online forum hosted by the editors of the Daily Tribune from Transportation Undersecretary Timothy John Batan who heads the rail segment at the agency.

The project is an entirely new endeavor involving the construction of a fully-elevated, fully electrified double-track railway with 10 stations representing the initial phase of the larger North-South Commuter Railway program of the government.

“You see that we mean we’re in business,” Batan told the Daily Tribune.

The Sumitomo-Mitsui Construction Corp. who won the contract in an open bidding process has since been onboard the project seen partially completed by 2021. The line should be fully operational by early 2022.

When fully operational, the line will be serviced by eight-car trains capable of ferrying 350,000 passengers daily in the initial phase but forecast to serve one million passengers daily upon full completion.

Batan said nothing like it has been seen in the Philippines as yet given that existing railcars along the light rail systems in place deploy only four-car trains.

As a result, each of the 10 trains stops along the 38-kilometer line will be 200 meters wide each, he said.

As for the potential cost of patronizing the line, Batan said it should prove slightly lower than the cost of traveling the same distance by other means of public transport like the buses, for instance.

He said surveys have been done to determine the price at which the commuter was willing to pay for a system that is fully airconditioned, reliable, on time and fast.

Batan was initially hesitant to give an actual figure but later acknowledged that for a rail service like that envisioned for the initial phase of the NSCR program, a commuter was likely to spend P180 to travel the 38-kilometer line funded by a submarket loan known as an official development assistance or ODA loan from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

The next phase of the NSCR project involves the construction of the 53-kilometer Malolos-to-Clark line involving six train stops co-financed by JICA and the Asian Development Bank.

There is another 56-kilometer stretch of rail spanning the distance from Manila to Calamba in Laguna for a total of 147 kilometers of new overhead railway that avoids Metro Manila’s horrendous at-grade traffic, Batan said.

The entire project should be done from the time the authorities first break ground to full completion in 30 to 32 months, Batan said.

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