Government breaks ground for Central Luzon train project

Manila: Officials broke ground for the construction of the first phase of a train service linking provinces in Central Luzon to Metro Manila.

The event, which took place in Marilao, Bulacan, will be the second time in more than a decade that such a ceremony was held. A similar project during the administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo had been dogged with problems prompting the government to cancel the endeavour that was undertaken by a Chinese government contractor.

A railway link between Metro Manila and provinces further north is critical in decongesting the already overpopulated national capital region and will be vital in spreading economic growth to other areas.

Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade said since the important project had undergone failed starts, it is important that the endeavour be finished immediately.

“DoTr [Department of Transportation] understands the need to complete this project faster. That is why we pursued these works parallel with the procurement of the general contractor, which is scheduled to be selected by the second quarter of 2018 for PNR [Philippine National Railways] Clark Phase 1,” Tugade said.

PNR is the state-run railway concern. Clark, in Pampanga province, was identified as the main station connecting it with Tutuban in Manila’s downtown area.

An old railway used to run from Tutuban until the early 1990s, however due to the PNR’s inability to generate funds for upkeep, the rail system fell into a state of disrepair.

During the ground breaking rites that were held last Friday, Tugade called on Bulacan’s local government officials help the department settle right-of-way concerns by telling their constituents the benefits of having a railway system.

Initially, the rail system will be constructed along the 38-kilometr3 segment from Tutuban, Manila, to Malolos, Bulacan. It will have 10 stations and is expected to service around 340,000 passengers daily. The phase linking the system to Clark will be implemented later.

Senator Joel Villanueva, a native of Bulacan, said a railway link between the national capital region (Metro Manila) will “increase connectivity” between the two economically critical areas.

“Not only will this afford convenience to our commuters but will also improve economic activity in the area,” he said.

The rail project, when finished will cut travel time from Tutuban to Bulacan’s Malolos City by 35 minutes.

Current travel by road to these two areas take between an hour to three hours.

The rail project will be undertaken by Japan’s Sumitomo Heavy Industries.

It will reach Malolos in 35 minutes.

Villanueva further underscored how the railway project can strengthen the economy and generate employment.

“One of the biggest benefits of this project, which is being undertaken under the government’s Build, Build, Build programme, is that it will generate employment aside from easing traffic congestion when it is already completed,” Villanueva said.

According to Senator JV Ejercito, the project would be a big boost to modernising the country’s transportation network.

“We are already 20 years behind in terms of infrastructure development and I would like to commend and congratulate Secretary Tugade that this is now being implemented,” Ejercito said.

Tugade said the contractors aim to finish the project’s first phase (Tutuban to Malolos) by 2020.

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