THE Philippines’ Department of Transportation (DOTr) has awarded a Pesos 141.8bn ($US 2.76bn) contract to a joint venture of China Railway Group, China Railway Number 3 Engineering, and China Railway Engineering Consulting Group to construct the first phase of the 560km Philippines National Railways (PNR) South Long-Haul Project.

The joint venture was the only bidder to qualify for the PNR Bicol Package 1 contract in November, and construction will start in the first quarter of 2022. The DOTr and PNR are hopeful that the 380km first phase, between Banlic in Calamba, Laguna and Daraga in Legazpi City, in Albay province, will be completed by 2024 with operation commencing in the third quarter of 2025.

The contract includes the construction of 23 stations and a depot. The design speed is 120-160km/h for passenger trains and 80-100km/h for freight trains.

DOTr undersecretary for railways, Mr Timothy John Batan, says the DOTr will now secure the loan to finance the first phase of the project. He said the DOTr will make a request via the Department of Finance (DOF) for an official development assistance (ODA) loan from China.

PNR expects other contract packages, which are yet to be awarded, to be completed between 2024 and 2026, with the entire line, which will run from Manila to Albay via Laguna, Quezon and Camarines Sur, operational by 2027. Journey times are expected to be reduced between Manila and Legazpi City in Albay from the current 14-18 hours to six hours using regular commuter trains, and 4h 30min using express trains.

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