Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Philippine National Railways inks deals with Metro Pacific, SM

Jeremiah F. de Guzman

STATE-OWNED Philippine National Railways (PNR) yesterday inaugurated new train coaches and railroad tracks as a result of a $59-million upgrade.

Railway officials also inked a deal to build a highway over railroad tracks to connect Luzon’s two main expressways at the cost of P16 billion, and agreements with mall operators for commercial spaces in train stations.

Manuel D. Andal, PNR general manager, said the rehabilitation project was funded through a loan facility with Korean Export-Import Bank.

Six new trains were purchased for this project, while three were refurbished. Three more will be delivered next month.

Mr. Andal said operations start today with just two rounds, in the morning and in the afternoon.

"We are still in the trial period. We’ll study first the cost of operations so we can come up with fare schedule. For the meantime, we will follow the old fares that start at P12," Mr. Andal added.

"We are expecting over 100,000 passengers everyday in our first year and we target to reach around a million each day in the next few years."

Alongside with the inauguration was the signing of agreements with private investors.

The construction of a highway connecting North Luzon Expressway (NLEx) and South Luzon Expressway (SLEx) over the PNR’s right of way will be in partnership with Metro Pacific Tollways Corp.

"The road construction alone between Buendia station and C-3 station will cost around P16 billion," Ramoncito S. Fernandez, Metro Pacific Tollways president and chief executive officer, told reporters.

Rodrigo E. Franco, president and CEO of Manila North Tollways Corp., said the total length of the connecting highway will be 13.24 kilometers.

Mr. Fernandez also said P4 billion would be allocated for road construction from the C-3 Road train station to Valenzuela, bringing the total investment to P20 billion in a period of two to three years.

A deal was also signed yesterday with SM Investments Corp. and S. T. Best, Inc, an affiliate of SM Group, for the takeover of train stations to build station malls.

Riqui Raymundo-Hizon, president of S. T. Best, said almost all stations from Caloocan to Alabang will have station malls using the PNR property.

"Small station malls will be built by S. T. Best and the major ones will be by SM. We still don’t have any particular amount allocated for this project but whatever it needs, we’ll come up with it," Ms. Raymundo-Hizon said.

Two other deals include a partnership with Lacosta Development for a fiber-optic project on the right of way of PNR, and with Railways and Industrial Heritage Society of the Philippines, Inc. for a museum at the old Paco Station.

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