OFFICIALS of the Department of Transportation, Sumitomo Corp. and Japan Transport Engineering Co. hold a Kagami Biraki ceremony after the signing of a P12.1-billion contract for train cars for the Malolos-Tutuban segment of the North-South Commuter Railway project. — DENISE A. VALDEZ

By Denise A. Valdez, Reporter

THE Department of Transportation (DoTr) signed Tuesday a P12.1-billion contract with a Japanese joint venture to provide 104 train cars for the Japan-funded Malolos-Tutuban segment of the North-South Commuter Railway (NSCR) project.

The rolling stock package was signed with Japan’s Sumitomo Corp. and Japan Transport Engineering Co. (J-TREC) during a program in Clark, Pampanga on Tuesday. This after the notice of award was issued to the tandem on July 5.

The train cars are scheduled to be delivered by the fourth quarter of 2021, but Transportation Secretary Arthur P. Tugade said he requested to have the delivery a quarter earlier to allow partial operations of the Malolos-Tutuban railway to begin before end-2021.

“Why are we agreeing to fast-track the manufacturing of these trains? Because I’ve promised the President that we will have the partial operability of the Tutuban-Clark, Clark-Calamba by the end of the fourth quarter of 2021,” he said.

The P777.55-billion NSCR project aims to connect Clark in Pampanga to Calamba in Laguna through three railway segments: the 53-kilometer Clark-Malolos railway, 38-kilometer Malolos-Tutuban railway and 56-kilometer Tutuban-Calamba railway.

Partial operability by 2021 will cover the first seven stations from Malolos to Valenzuela, where the depot for the train sets will be located. Full operation of the 147-kilometer NSCR is scheduled by 2023.

The train cars ordered Tuesday forms part of the government’s aggressive push to expand the country’s rail system.

“Along with other orders that would be completed by 2020 for the 1,900-kilometer railway network that we are building throughout the country, …(the DoTr) would have expanded our rolling stock fleet from 221 in 2016 to more than 1,200 train cars by 2022,” Transportation Undersecretary for Railways Timothy John R. Batan said.

The other orders comprise of 369 train cars for the Philippine National Railway, 108 train cars for the Metro Rail Transit Line 7, and 120 train cars for the Light Rail Transit Line 1.

In the coming months, the government is set to bid out the contracts to provide 600 train cars for the rest of the segments of the NSCR project, 56 airport express train cars connecting to the Clark International Airport and 240 train cars for the Metro Manila Subway project.

“[W]e are on-track to delivering the 147-kilometer NSCR system with its 37 stations spanning 26 local government units from Clark International Airport in Region 3 to Calamba in Region 4, and to usher in the Philippines’ golden age of infrastructure,” Mr. Batan said.