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Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Clark-Calamba Railway Project starts rolling

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There are worries that obtaining the cooperation of informal settlers could pose the biggest threat to the on-time completion of the project

The start of the North South Commuter Railway (NSCR) project late last year has sparked considerable enthusiasm among our citizenry.

Jointly funded by JICA and the ADB, the NSCR Project is a 147-kilometer modern rail system that will connect Clark in Pampanga to Calamba City in Laguna.

The NSCR will pass through Metro Manila and is expected to cut travel time by more than half.

It will have 36 stations and offer several transport modes: a regular commuter service, a commuter express line with limited stops, an airport express service to the Clark International Airport.

The NSCR shall also be linked to the Metro Manila Subway.

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The 33.1-km-long subway being constructed in Metro Manila will run from Valenzuela to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), connecting 17 stations and a depot.

It will be the first mass underground transport system in the Philippines.

This development has definitely sparked a lot of hope among the traveling public and the business sector.

This comes amid the ordeal of motorists and commuters traversing Metro Manila’s major thoroughfares during the Christmas season and at the start of this year when a renowned foreign act was performed at a huge venue north of the National Capital Region.

There had long been a plan to build a fast train service to connect Metro Manila with key destinations north and south of it.

That initiative had been shelved several times due to various issues, leaving the public wondering whether or not any relief from the traffic hell hounding the metropolis would ever come.

Now, the construction of the 147-kilometer railway has started and Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista insists the government is determined to finish the project on schedule.

President Marcos Jr. himself has called on all sectors involved in the NSCR project to cooperate.

Recently, some structures which looked like foundations of the NSCR railways could already be seen in certain portions of its planned route.

Hence, a rail-based solution to the traffic headache of NCR and its neighbors is finally in place.

What has not been mentioned about the NSCR is the kind of trains that commuters can look forward to in the future.

Our research showed the international rail sector has listed the NSCR trains as among the fastest in Southeast Asia once the railway becomes operational.

NSCR trains are projected to be traveling at the speed of 120 to 160 kilometers per hour.

Once they start running, they will be the fastest in the Philippines.

It appears the trains that will run along the railways of another project – the PNR South Long Haul – will be traveling at the same maximum speed of 160 kph.

The prospect of commuting on modern trains running along the NSCR route at 120 to 160 kph certainly creates excitement about the future of rail transportation in our country.

This is one strong reason for concerned sectors to heed President Marcos’ call to support the efforts of the low-key Transportation Secretary and other agencies involved in the NSCR project to finish it on time.

We understand the most crucial support needed today is for the completion of the Right-of-Way (ROW) requirement for the project.

The construction of railways where high-speed trains will run requires the clearing and expansion of the current PNR railway system, and this is not an easy task.

Informal settler communities have sprouted along both sides of PNR tracks over the past decades.

This situation is at its worst in many parts of Metro Manila where the PNR railway runs and where future stations of the NSCR will be built.

There are worries that obtaining the cooperation of informal settlers could pose the biggest threat to the on-time completion of the project.

The worry has basis.

The usual headaches such as funding for the project has been addressed.

The JICA and the ADB have thrown all-out support for the NSCR project.

What needs to be done now is for the ROWs to be delivered to the private contractors so they can start construction.

Important here are the local government units and the Key Shelter Agencies (KSAs) that consist of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council, the National Housing Authority, and the Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor.

The parties affected by relocation also play a role here.

Their cooperation will mean better lives for them and for all of us.

We all have to pitch in if our aspiration of high-speed rail travel is to materialize in the near future.

(Email: ernhil@yahoo.com)

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