Monday, 17 December 2007

Northrail construction now ‘on track’

Original article at The Manila Bulletin

The North Luzon railway, currently under construction from Metro Manila to Northern Luzon, is essential and necessary to the economic progress and prosperity of the Philippines, said Arsenio M. Bartolome III, President and Chief Executive of North Luzon Railways Corporation (Northrail).

In a speech to the Rotary Club of Manila, Bartolome disclosed that the construction of the railway started last month and is now "on track."

He appealed to the public to support the project as it would benefit millions of Filipinos, including commuters, farmers, traders, workers and students, who would profit from the cheap and fast mass transportation system.

Bartolome explained that once Northrail becomes operational, it would accomplish four objectives: 1) it would provide fast, cheap and reliable mass transport services for passengers and goods from Metro Manila to Northern Luzon; 2) it would enhance and accelerate the development and growth of Central and Northern Luzon; 3), it would decongest motorized traffic in Metro Manila; and 4), it would provide linkages to the MRT and LRT light rail systems.

Bartolome added that the construction of the railway would also afford employment to hundreds of Filipinos, and benefit thousands of farmers by providing them with cheap access to markets.

Bartolome said that the Northrail was conceptualized in 1994 during the term of President Fidel Ramos. But it was only during the term of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo when the project was firmed up with the signing of an executive agreement with the Peoples’ Republic of China.

Under the agreement, the PROC shall design, supply and construct Phase 1 of the Northrail project. PROC designated China National Machinery and Equipment Corp (CNMEG) to handle the design, supply and construction of the project while the Export Import Bank of China takes care of its financing. Contracts and loan agreements have been finalized and signed and the construction has begun last month.

The project is divided into four phases — Phase 1 from Caloocan to Clark Field, Pampanga; Phase 2 from Clark Field to Subic Bay; phase 3 from Caloocan to Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City, and Phase 4 from Clark Field, Pampanga to San Fernando, La Union.

According to Bartolome, Northrail will utilize the existing right of way of the Philippine National Railway (PNR) from Caloocan all the way to San Fernando, La Union. This right of way of PNR had been abandoned for more than 30 years.

Bartolome commended the National Housing Authority under the leadership of Vice President Noli de Castro for effectively and efficiently clearing all the informal settlers on the PNR right of way from Caloocan to Malolos, paving the way for the start of the construction. He described the two phases of the construction as follows:

Phase 1 is subdivided into two sections, namely, section 1 from Caloocan to Malolos, and section 2 from Malolos to Clark Field, Pampanga. The project cost for Section 1 is $ 421 million while Section 2 would cost $ 586 million.

The track length from Caloocan to Malolos is 32.5 kilometers with six stations located in Caloocan, Valenzuela, Marilao, Bocaue, Guiginto, Malolos. Travelling time will be cut to 30 minutes. It will be used by 19 diesel multiple units which are upgradeable to electric multiple units. Some 125,000 are expected to use the trains for the first months. Expected completion is the first semester or 2010.

Section 2 from Malolos to Clark Field Pampanga, will cover a distance is 51.5 kilometers with six stations located Malolos, Calumpit, Apalit, San Fernando, Angeles City and Clark Field. Travelling time is 30 minutes and number of trains is 23 Expected completion is 2011.

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