Articles News and Insights What to Expect From the South Commuter Railway

What to Expect From the South Commuter Railway

Transport and commuting have never been easy in Manila. But that could all change with the South Commuter Railway. Read more here.

In order to help finance the construction of an approximately 55 km (km) long, contemporary suburban railway line connecting Metro Manila with the city of Calamba in the Philippines, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has sanctioned up to $4.3 billion. The South Commuter Railway Project, which is a part of the North-South Commuter Railway (NSCR) network, is the largest infrastructure project that the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has ever financed in Asia and the Pacific.

Once finished, the South Commuter Railway will provide commuters with quick public transportation, assist in reducing traffic congestion on the roads, and help the Philippines meet its climate change goals by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The Malolos-Clark Railway line, whose construction is still going on north of the city, was funded by ADB before the project.

Transportation Progress in Manila

Ahmed M. Saeed, vice president of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) for East Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific, stated that the South Commuter Railway Project would offer affordable, dependable, safe, and quick public transportation for commuters. This project is the largest infrastructure investment made by ADB and demonstrates our dedication to assisting the Philippines in attaining its objectives of lowering poverty, enhancing the quality of life for Filipinos, and promoting green, resilient, and rapid economic growth.

Building of 18 stations with safe access for everyone—including the elderly, women, children, and persons with disabilities—as well as the construction of a tunnel connecting Calamba to stations on the future Metro Manila Subway system are also included in the project. Every piece of infrastructure will be built to withstand earthquakes and typhoons and be disaster-resistant. With the project, the existing 2.5-hour road trip between Manila and Calamba will be cut in half.

The NSCR is anticipated to boost the Philippines' economic recovery from the devastating effects of the COVID-19 epidemic by adding more than 3,200 permanent employment to its operating staff and creating more than 35,500 jobs during construction. Through supplier agreements and other opportunities made possible by improved connectivity in the area, it will significantly boost economic growth. According to an ADB research, it will increase inhabitants' access to an average of more than 300,000 jobs within a 1-hour commute.

Ease of Commuting

A 38 km long railway line known as Phase 1 of the NSCR Project connects Tutuban in Manila with Malolos in the Province of Bulacan. 200,000 daily commuters stand to gain from the expected line's completion, which will significantly reduce traffic congestion in and around Manila.

The 52 km-long Phase 2 of the project will head northwest from the Clark economic zone and Clark International Airport in Central Luzon to the northern Manila suburb of Malolos. Additionally, this phase is anticipated to reduce traffic congestion, reduce transportation expenses, boost economic activity, and encourage a population transfer from the capital to regional growth centers further north. The 56 km of suburban commuter rail on the southern aspect, which runs from Solis to Calamba, promises easy transfers and a dependable mode of transportation with numerous socioeconomic advantages.

The Structure and History of the New Railway

The Department of Transportation (DOTr) received assistance from ADB's Infrastructure Preparation and Innovation Facility in the project's preparation. The loan will help DOTr, the implementing agency, expand its capacity-building and institutional-strengthening efforts. In order to prevent flooding and lessen the impact on the towns along the railway path, the railway will be elevated. Affected areas will receive support from a technical assistance grant.

A multitranche financing structure will be used to pay for the South Commuter Railway Project, with the first $1.75 billion tranche being available this year. The second and third tranches are anticipated to be released in 2024 and 2026, respectively. The depot buildings, stations, bridges, tunnels, and railway viaduct will all be constructed with ADB funding. The rolling stock and railway systems are being funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency.

The project, which is a component of the government's "Build, Build, Build" infrastructure development initiative, is one of the Philippines' infrastructure flagship projects (IFP). Other IFPs funded by ADB include the Malolos Clark Railway Project in 2019, the Improving Growth Corridors in Mindanao Road Sector Project in 2017, the Metro Manila Bridges Project in 2021, the EDSA Greenways Project in 2020, the Angat Water Transmission Improvement Project in 2016 and additional financing in 2020.

Work on the NSCR has been halted and restarted multiple times during the 1990s. Poor design, delays, work stoppages, disagreements, financial concerns, and changes in government have historically impeded it. When the NSCR was recognized as a flagship infrastructure project again in 2016, it provided an opportunity for us to contribute our specialized technical knowledge to a long-overdue project.

The main obstacle faced when working as a sub-consultant for our partner Oriental Consultants Global (OCG) was that numerous design and construction elements needed to be assessed and maybe changed in order to detect problems and achieve cost savings. A strong project management methodology was essential to the success of working on a project this complicated with multidisciplinary teams.

The Future With The South Commuter Railway

All infrastructure will be built with disaster resilience in mind, and should be able to withstand typhoons and earthquakes, according to ADB. It also promises to significantly reduce travel time—the existing drive from Manila to Calamba takes 2.5 hours. The South Commuter Railway Project will give workers access to quicker and more convenient means of transportation. According to ADB, the project will mostly help those who commute from the south to the business districts of Manila each day because it will cut travel time to an hour.

According to a quantitative analysis, residents of cities and municipalities having SCR stations will be able to commute to an additional 300,000 jobs on average in one hour, representing an increase of 15.3% in the south and 8.5% in Metro Manila. Better labor market matching, higher wages for workers, and more employment options for low-income households could result from this. The study supports initiatives to estimate the broader economic advantages of infrastructure improvements, particularly effective urban transportation networks.

Additionally, it will provide around 3,200 permanent employment throughout operation and 35,500 temporary jobs during construction. Additionally, a technical assistance award" will be given to aid the impacted communities. According to ADB, the South Commuter Railway Project's green component is intended to help the Philippines meet its climate change goals by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.