THE Department of Transportation and Hitachi Rail signed on Monday the electrical and mechanical systems and track works contract for the Manila-Bulacan segment of the North-South Commuter Railway (NSCR) project.

“The government of Japan, along with our private sector, takes pride in being part of the ambitious and transformative railway projects of the Philippine government,” Japanese Ambassador Koshikawa Kazuhiko said in a statement.

He reaffirmed Japan’s commitment to work with the Philippines “towards the successful completion of the NSCR.”

The Japanese embassy said Hitachi Rail technology will help reduce NSCR’s energy footprint.

“This system will also boost safety on the line by enabling automatic activation of train safety functions, including emergency braking in case of danger or if trains exceed the track’s maximum line speed,” the embassy noted.

The Tutuban (Manila)-Malolos (Bulacan) rail project is part of the 163-kilometer NSCR urban rail transit system from Calamba south of the capital to Clark in Central Luzon. It is co-financed by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the Asian Development Bank.

On its website, Hitachi Rail describes itself as a “fully integrated, global provider of rail solutions across rolling stock, signaling, operation, service and maintenance, digital technology, and turnkey solutions.”

The 38-kilometer Malolos-Tutuban segment has a projected cost of P149.13 billion, according to the National Economic and Development Authority.  It is expected to carry more than 200,000 commuters daily.

The travel time from Malolos to Tutuban is estimated to be 35 minutes once the project is finished.

The Malolos to Clark segment is now expected to be completed in 2025, rather than the initial target of 2024.

According to JICA, the NSCR project is designed to strengthen the mass transport network servicing growing demand in Metro Manila and surrounding provinces. — Arjay L. Balinbin