With Luzon totally overcrowded and limited good infrastructure, developing the rail system in the Philippines would help transfer some of the traffic from the road to the train. Discussions about the feasibility and the necessity of having a proper rail linking the Northern to the Southern of Luzon Island has been discussed for years if not decades.
A first concrete step was taken finally this year. Last May, the Asia Development Bank (ADB) and the Development Bank of the Philippines now jointly advise the Philippine Transportation Department on the tender for what is to be the largest Public Private Partnership project in the Archipelago.
The North-South Rail Corridor covers 653 km of railroads representing an impressive investment of over US$3.7 billion – the equivalent of PHP170 billion. It would help providing a proper environmental friendly mean of transportation for half the population of the Philippines, the equivalent of roughly 50 million inhabitants.
The project is due to be auctioned before the end of the year and be awarded next year for an immediate start. If construction works go smoothly -which is rarely the case in the Philippines- the 653-km of line would be ready by 2020.
The ADB will also help the Philippine government to craft terms that will make the project attractive to investors, he said. According to ADB experts, the Philippine railway project forms part of $25-30 billion-worth of infrastructure projects in the region that will be assisted by the ADB. Infrastructure development in the Philippines is estimated to request total investments of US$8 trillion for the period 2010-2020.
In 2014, some 436 million passengers used rail services in the Philippines, with the Philippines National Railways transporting only 36 million passengers a year as it only covers a commuter line in Greater Manila.
Half a century ago, Philippines rail network had a length of 1,100 km. But years of infrastructure neglect, under-investment and finally typhoons reduced dramatically the network’s coverage. In 2014, total railways’ length reached only 528 km country-wide. A number to be compared to 28,000 km of paved roads (including 400 km of expressways) for the archipelago.