DOTC Opens Bidding for P170.7-Billion ‘Bicol Express’ Railway Project, Biggest PPP Project so far

PNR railway train

The Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) announced this Wednesday, July 15 the opening for bid for the P170.7-Billion South Line of the North-South Railway Project (NSRP). Together with the Philippine National Railway (PNR), this ambitious government project is the most expensive Public-Private Partnership (PPP) project so far.

“This is our biggest project yet: the revival of the oldest rail system in Southeast Asia, beginning with the Manila-Legazpi section plus additional branch lines totaling 653 kilometers,” DOTC Secretary Jun Abaya said on the press release. This latest railroad project is the 9th PPP project in the administration of President Noynoy Aquino.

“Rail systems are a driver for inclusive socio-economic growth. They encourage trade and business activity, and provide access to employment and educational opportunities. The PNR, once a symbol of the country’s economic progress, should be modernized into a safe, convenient, and efficient system by 2020.” He added.

Under the terms of the said project, the winner bidder shall be responsible for the designing, constructing, financing, operating, and maintaining the following the railway sytem for 34 years, which includes its 4 years of construction. This reviving of the so-called “Bicol Express” includes the following services:

* 478-kilometer Long-Haul Rail service for the Tutuban, Manila to Legazpi, Albay route
* 56-kilometer Commuter Rail service for the Tutuban, Manila to Calamba, Laguna route
* 58 kilometers from Calamba, Laguna to Batangas City, Batangas
* 117 kilometers from Legazpi, Albay to Matnog, Sorsogon

The entire railway is set to be operational in 2020, and is expected to serve 316,000 passengers a day on its first year. There will be sixty-six (66) stations, with seven (7) set of trains with ten (10) trips daily. The start of bidding is set for January 2016, and the project will be awarded to the winning bidder in March 2016.

But while we must commend the DOTC and the Aquino government for this very useful project, we must be reminded that Secretary Abaya is being linked to alleged corruption in various projects. As hardworking taxpayers, we should closely monitor every development of this project, to make sure that it will not lead to another controversy.

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