By Emmie V. Abadilla
After more than 14 years of waiting, the government yesterday (Feb. 15, 2019) broke ground for the construction of the over P2-billion Philippine National Railways (PNR) Clark Phase 1 linking Tutuban, Manila with Malolos, Bulacan.
It is part of the P777.5-billion North-South Commuter Railway (NSCR) Extension Project, spanning 147-kilometers, with a total of 36 stations from Clark International Airport to Calamba, Laguna.
Phase 1 of the railway will cut travel time to Bulacan from the current one and a half hours to 35 minutes and will serve more than 340,000 passengers per day when it becomes operational by 2021.
This initial phase of the PNR Clark Railway Project will eventually extend all the way to Clark, Pampanga.
It will have 10 stations: Tutuban, Solis, Caloocan, Valenzuela, Meycauayan, Malolos, Marilao, Bocaue, Balagtas and Guiguinto, with a depot in Valenzuela city.
Furthermore, Phase 1 will be seamlessly integrated with PNR Clark Phase 2 going to Clark, Pampanga and PNR South Commuter going to Calamba, Laguna, forming one integrated commuter railway system serving commuters travelling to, from, and within NCR, Region III, and Region IV-A.
Also, the NSCR System will link with existing railway lines LRT-1, LRT-2, MRT-3 and the Metro Manila Subway. It is expected to serve some 500,000 passengers per day once it is fully operational.
The PNR Clark project took the place of the defunct Northrail project, which the government abandoned after reaching an out-of-court settlement with its Chinese contractor after many years of arbitration proceedings.
The Department of Transportation (DOTr) selected Sumitomo-Mitsui Construction Co. Ltd. to build the PNR Clark rail line.
“This is, again, one project that has been long delayed,” Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade acknowledged.