ADB approves $4.3bn for new Manila-Calamba railway

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ADB’s largest ever Asia and Pacific investment will offer fast public transport, ease road traffic congestion and reduce Philippines greenhouse gas emissions.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved up to $4.3bn to help finance the construction of nearly 55km of modern suburban railway line connecting Metro Manila with the city of Calamba in the Philippines.

The investment in the South Commuter Railway Project, which is part of the North–South Commuter Railway (NSCR) network, is ADB’s largest infrastructure financing in the Asia and Pacific region to date.

Once completed, the South Commuter Railway will offer commuters fast public transport, help to ease road traffic congestion, and contribute to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in line with the Philippines’ climate change agenda. The project follows ADB’s financing of the Malolos–Clark Railway line north of the capital, for which construction is ongoing.

ADB vice-president for East Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific, Ahmed M. Saeed, said: “This project represents ADB’s biggest infrastructure investment and reflects our commitment to helping the Philippines attain its goals of reducing poverty, improving the lives of Filipinos, and achieving green, resilient, and high economic growth.”

The project includes the construction of 18 stations designed to provide safe access for all, including the elderly, women, children, and people with disabilities; and a connecting tunnel to allow the operation of direct trains from Calamba to stations on the future Metro Manila Subway system. All infrastructure will be designed to be disaster-resilient and able to withstand typhoons and earthquakes. The project will reduce travel time between Manila and Calamba by over half, from 2.5 hours currently by road.

It is also expected that the new line will further strengthen the Philippines’ economic recovery from the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and is expected to create more than 35,000 jobs during construction and over 3,200 permanent jobs during operation.

ADB’s Infrastructure Preparation and Innovation Facility supported the Department of Transportation (DOTr) in preparing the project. The loan will further support the capacity development and institutional strengthening of DOTr, the implementing agency. The railway will be elevated to avoid flooding and reduce the impact and disruption to communities along the railway route. A technical assistance grant will support affected communities.

The South Commuter Railway Project will be financed under a multitranche financing facility, with the first tranche of $1.75bn to be made available this year. The release of the second and third tranches is expected in 2024 and 2026, respectively. ADB will finance civil works for the railway viaduct, stations, bridges, tunnels, and depot buildings. The Japan International Cooperation Agency is funding the rolling stock and railway systems.