Manila’s Ambitious Plans To Expand Rail Network

Manila’s Ambitious Plans To Expand Rail Network – Rapid Transit Review

David Briginshaw

Manila’s Ambitious Plans To Expand Rail Network: Manila, the Philippine capital, plans a major expansion of its rail network to cope with a population explosion and rapidly worsening road congestion and pollution. More LRT lines, a metro, and improvements to the heavy rail network are planned. (Rapid Transit Review)

MANILA currently has two light rail lines in operation and a third under construction. In addition Philippine National Railroad (PNR) operates a limited commuter rail service to the south The rail network is woefully inadequate for a city with a rapidly increasing population and traffic congestion.

The population of greater Manila is expected to increase from 14.4 million in 1996 to 25.7 million by 2015. In addition, 2.5 million people commute into Manila each day. Car ownership is expected to soar from 730 million and 18.5% of households in 1996 to 2.34 billion and 28.2% of households by 2015, which will increase the ratio of vehicles to road space from 0.7% to 2.3% “This will result in a massive heart attack for Manila,” said Mr Carlos Borromeo, under secretary, railways and mass transit projects, with the Philippine Department of Transportation & Communications.

Expanding bus services is not an option even if more road space could be devoted to them, as buses generate about 70% of air pollution in Manila. As Borromeo explained, “Our planners have taken the approach of trying to move people rather than vehicles to solve Manila’s transport problems.”

Unfortunately, Manila has only had moderate success in expanding its rail network so far. Its first LRT line, which runs north-south, forms the backbone of the city’s transport network. Line 1 was designed to carry 225,000 passengers a day, but has been carrying far more passengers than this for several years. It currently transports about 425,000 passengers/day. The line is now being upgraded, which should eventually boost capacity to 800,000 passengers/day.

The first part of the city’s second line, called Line 3, finally opened in December 1999 after delays caused by funding and legal problems. Line 3 is transporting about 235,000 passengers a day, which is well below its original forecast of 400,000. The line runs from Taft Avenue in Pasay City on Line 1 in a semi-circle to Quezon City. However, the final section from there to Monumento, which would complete the semi-circle and provide a second connection with Line 1, has yet to be built. “Without this link, ridership is only likely to increase to between 270,000 and 300,000 a day,” Borromeo explained. The ridership projection for Line 3 when it is completed is 650,000 passengers/day. Traffic on Line 3 is also below expectations because passengers face a long climb up stairs to reach the elevated stations. To make matters worse, the stations are poorly sited in relation to bus stops, and there is no through ticketing with Line 1. Borromeo says rail and bus will be coordinated better when lines are built in the future.

Construction of a 5km extension to complete the Line 3 semi-circle has been approved subject to funding. The cost of the project is estimated at $US 250 million including rolling stock. The government is considering whether to fund the project itself using the existing operator or take advantage of a new offer to build it. However, Borromeo recognises it would be difficult to have two operators on one line. In addition, the builders of the first stage of Line 3 have proposed a 5km extension from Taft Avenue to Manila Airport as a build, lease, transfer project.

LRT Line 2, running from Central towards the east of Manila, is under construction. The project has been delayed by nearly three years and is now expected to open in December 2003. It should carry about 350,000 passengers/day.

Line 1 is to be extended 10km north and 12km south initially. SNC-Lavalin, Canada, is negotiating a public-private partnership for the southern extension (see panel). “This will serve as a model for all future projects,” Borromeo affirmed.

Negotiations have also started for the construction of Line 4. This will run from Quezon Avenue on Line 3 via San Mateo to North Caloocan. It will help to relieve heavy road congestion in this corridor and help to boost ridership on Line 3.

The first underground metro line in Manila is at the planning stage. The 9.5km line would form a loop connecting at each end with Line 3. “It will link several business districts, a development area, a shopping centre, and a 110ha government owned area which will be the government’s contribution to the privately-funded project,” Borromeo explained. It is hoped to start work on the project in mid-2002 and to open the first section by the end of 2004.

Various attempts have been made to upgrade PNR and to get the North Rail project off the ground. Some track upgrading has been done, and services have been expanded a little. But, as Borromeo explained, “PNR only carries 17,000 passengers on a good day. PNR is overstaffed, so its payroll has to be subsidised. It is saddled with debts it cannot service. PNR has been overtaken by too many events and has failed to keep up with the times. The most radical path would be to dissolve PNR, but PNR is autonomous so it is difficult for the Department of Transportation to wield influence.”

Under the new 2001-04 transport plan for Manila, the central section of PNR is to be replaced by a light rail line which would carry up to 225,000 passengers/day. The project has been approved by the Metropolitan Manila Development Agency (MMDA) and funding will come from Korea.

Advanced feasibility studies have been done to upgrade the PNR line from Magallanes south to Calamba. “It looks viable because of a high ridership potential as it would serve about four million people,” Borromeo said. “It would be a joint venture with a private proponent.”

The North Rail project was originally conceived to provide a rail link to a new airport to be built on the site of the former Clark US Air Force base about 100km north of Manila. The North Rail organisation is now to be dissolved, and PNR is preparing to take over the project. It is now proposed to rebuild the line as far as Calumpit.

There are ambitious plans beyond 2004 to expand the light rail network still further and to build a substantial metro network. It is proposed to do the work in two stages, first up to 2010 and then into the second decade of the 21st century. The projects planned for the period 2004-10 include further extensions to Line 1, an eastern extension to Line 2, an extension to Line 4 from Quezon Avenue to Central, phases 2 and 3 of the metro, and North Rail phase 2. Phase 4 of the metro and a further eastern extension to Line 2 are proposed beyond 2010.


Light Rail Network

Line Length Status Opening date

1 14.5km Being upgraded Open

1 South 12km Approved PPP 2004

1 North 10km Planned

2 14km Under construction 2003

3 17km Open

3 5km Approved subject to

funding 2004

4 15.6km Under negotiation 2004


Line Length Status Opening date

Phase 1 9.5km Planned; work to start

in 2002 2004

Airport Link 5km Proposed 2004

PNR Projects

Line Length Status Opening date

North Rail 46km Uncertain 2004

Manila LRT 12.5km Approved 2004

South Rail 40km Being planned 2004

COPYRIGHT 2001 Simmons-Boardman Publishing Corporation

COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group