ADB approves $4.3-B railway financing

THE Asian Development Bank (ADB) on Thursday approved a $4.3-billion loan for the construction of the South Commuter Railway project.

In a statement, the ADB said the fund will be used for the construction of nearly 55 kilometers of railway line connecting Metro Manila with Calamba City, Laguna.

The project includes the construction of 18 stations designed to provide access for all, and a connecting tunnel to allow the operation of direct trains from Calamba to stations on the future Metro Manila subway system.

ADB said all infrastructure will be designed to be disaster-resilient and able to withstand typhoons and earthquakes.

The project will reduce travel time between Manila and Calamba by over half, from 2.5 hours currently by road.

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“The South Commuter Railway Project will provide affordable, safe, reliable and fast public transport for commuters,” said Ahmed Saeed, ADB vice president for East Asia, Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

“This project represents ADB’s biggest infrastructure investment and reflects our commitment to helping the Philippines attain its goals of reducing poverty, improving the lives of Filipinos, and achieving green, resilient, and high economic growth,” added Saeed.

The investment in the South Commuter Railway Project, which is part of the North-South Commuter Railway network, is ADB’s largest infrastructure financing in the Asia and Pacific region to date.

ADB said the North-South Commuter Railway will help the Philippines recover from the impact of the pandemic as it is expected to create more than 35,500 jobs during construction and over 3,200 permanent jobs during operation.

It is also expected to improve access to an average of more than 300,000 jobs within any one-hour commute for residents along the project, according to an ADB study.

ADB’s Infrastructure Preparation and Innovation Facility supported the Department of Transportation (DoTr) in preparing the project.

The loan will further support the capacity development and institutional strengthening of DoTr, the implementing agency.

The railway will be elevated to avoid flooding and reduce the impact and disruption to communities along the railway route. A technical assistance grant will support affected communities.

The South Commuter Railway Project will be financed under a multi-tranche financing facility, with the first tranche of $1.75 billion to be made available starting this year.

The release of the second and third tranches is expected in 2024 and 2026, respectively.

ADB will finance civil works for the railway viaduct, stations, bridges, tunnels and depot buildings while the Japan International Cooperation Agency is funding the rolling stock and railway systems.