By Chino S. Leyco
The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Investment Coordination Committee (ICC) approved the change in scope and increase in cost of the North-South Commuter Railway (NSCR) System.
The total cost of the NSCR has been increased to P777.5 billion from P441 billion, which will be funded through an Official Development Assistance loan support from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
NSCR is a project of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and Philippine National Railways (PNR).
The increase in project cost is attributed to three factors as determined by the detailed engineering designs.
These include the shift to elevated viaducts instead of at-grade structures; adoption of standard gauge instead of narrow-gauge, and, increase in the number of trains and change from single to double-tracks.
The cost will also cover resettlement activities, meeting ADB and JICA social and environmental safeguards, to ensure proper housing and welfare support for the estimated 12,901 informal settler families that will be affected.
The project will bring together the NSCR Phase 1 (Malolos-Tutuban), the PNR South Commuter Railway (Solis-Calamba), and the Malolos-Clark Railway Project (MCRP), that will create a 147-km elevated, double-track, and seamless connection from Clark International Airport to Calamba, Laguna, with 36 stations.
The NSCR System will link with existing railway lines the LRT-1, LRT-2 and MRT-3, as well as with the upcoming Metro Manila Subway.
According to the DOTr, the NSCR System compared to other railway projects in Asia is more cost-effective. Per kilometer, the project costs about $100 million.
The rail system is expected to be partially operational by 2022 with a daily ridership of 340,000 passengers. It will be fully operational by 2023 with a daily ridership of 550,000 passengers.
The government will subsidize an average of P5 billion per year to cover capital, operating, and renewal costs of the project — an investment that is expected to generate substantial economic activity, create more jobs, increase incomes, and deliver a more comfortable commuting experience.
The DOTr was instructed by the Committee to implement measures that would allow the national government to maximize non-farebox revenues, such as incremental taxes from increased property value through revenue-sharing arrangements with concerned LGUs and through the development of national government properties in the project area.