By Richmond Mercurio, May 27 2019; Philippine Star

Image Credit to Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines is on track with its ambitious railway expansion plan despite some major rail projects not yet taking off, according to Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade.

The Department of Transportation (DOTr), under the Build Build Build program, has embarked on a campaign to build new railways and rehabilitate existing ones with the goal of expanding railway infrastructure throughout the country to 1,900 kilometers by 2022 from the current 77 kilometers in operation.

“Except for the Mindanao railway and that portion of railway in Bicol, all the railway projects has started, including the subway. Never before has the Philippines experienced a subway,” Tugade said.

Tugade said the government is putting huge importance to developing the country’s railway system given that its development would bring enhanced mobility and connectivity of people and goods, which in turn, will greatly aid in Philippine economic growth.

“So if we are to grow as a nation, we have to improve our railway system. Do you know of any country that has developed and prosper without a railway system? None. Therefore if you want development, if you want to have growth, you must have connectivity, you must have mobility,” he said.

“So in terms of the railway system, it has to grow from 77 kilometers to 1,900 kilometers in a period of six years. This is the mandate of this administration,” Tugade said.

Aside from developing actual railways, the transport chief said the agency is also complementing the expansion program with the establishment of the Philippine Railway Institute.

“You have to complement infrastructure with training because if you do not, that structure will in due time collapse. We put up an MRT system more than 10 years back. What is it now? It is about to be gone, about to be totally replaced far and beyond the reality that railway tracks should last for 100 years. After 10 years, we are already replacing our tracks. Why is this so? Basically because there is lack of training, skills, and talent,” Tugade said.

Tugade said the membership of the Philippine National Railways (PNR) in the International Union of Railways (UIC) also opens new opportunities for the inter-operability of railways system, and the digitalization and innovation for seamless train operations in the country.