THE Mindanao Railway Project’s Tagum-Davao segment has been set an operational target date of the second quarter, the Department of Transportation (DoTr) said.

“Partial operations are targeted by the second quarter of 2020 for the Tagum-Davao line,” the DoTr said in its annual report obtained by BusinessWorld last week.

Transportation Secretary Arthur P. Tugade confirmed this in a chance interview on Jan. 8.

Pero marami pa tayong problema d’yan. Siyempre maraming ayaw dumaan ‘yung tren sa bahay nila (there are still many problems with the system, including many people who do not want the train near their homes),” he said.

Asked about the status of the right-of-way acquisition for the project, he said: “Hindi ko masabi ‘yung extent pero inaasikaso na ngayon ‘yan (I can’t give an estimate but we are working on it).”

The Tagum-Davao line is part of the Phase 1 of the 830-kilometer Mindanao Railway Project. The transportation department said earlier that it expects to break ground on the first segment of the railway project in the first quarter this year.

The DoTr added that full operations for the first phase of the project will come by fourth quarter of 2022.

Phase 1 will establish a 74-kilometer at-grade and 26-kilometer elevated (viaduct) commuter railway from Tagum City in Davao del Norte to Digos City in Davao del Sur. It will have eight stations — Tagum, Carmen, Panabo, Mudiang, Davao, Toril, Sta. Cruz, and Digos.

The Tagum-Davao-Digos segment, which will be funded via official development assistance (ODA) provided by China, is the first of the three segments of the P81.686-billion Mindanao Railway Project.

“Once fully operational, travel time between Tagum City to Digos City will be reduced from 3.5 hours to 1.3 hours. Its first phase is designed to accommodate 130,000 passengers daily,” the DoTr said.

The construction of a train system in Mindanao was first considered in the late 1930s after the completion of rail lines in Luzon.

“This builds on the dream of President Rodrigo Duterte to generate development in Mindanao through an efficient rail system that will not only move people throughout the island of Mindanao, but will also generate needed economic growth,” Mr. Tugade was quoted as saying in a statement in December. — Arjay L. Balinbin