Chinese group awarded $2.8bn first phase of Philippines’ Bicol rail scheme

The Philippines’ Department of Transportation (DOTr) has awarded a $2.8bn contract to a Chinese consortium to build the first phase of the 565km Bicol rail scheme on the country’s main island of Luzon.

Philippine National Railways (PNR) is planning to build the link between Metro Manila and the southeastern tip of Luzon, with the first phase to start in the first quarter of this year. 

In a statement issued on 18 January, the department said a team consisting of China Railway Group, China Railway No 3 Engineering Group and China Railway Engineering Consulting Group would design and build the 380km stretch through the centres of Banlic, Calamba and Daraga.

According to the department, the first phase will cover four provinces and 39 cities and municipalities. This will include the construction of 23 stations, 230 bridges, 10 passenger tunnels and a 70ha depot at San Pablo in Laguna Province.

The first package of the China funded Philippine National Railways (PNR) Bicol project will begin construction in the first quarter of 2022. Photo: PNR.

Timothy John Batan, the DOTr’s undersecretary for railways, said that funding from China for the scheme had not yet been secured, but that the DOTr would be requesting the Department of Finance to organise it.

He added: “We want to clarify that this is a contract for package 1 of PNR Bicol, which is our biggest contract but this is not our biggest project.” That honour goes to the North-South Commuter Railway, followed by the Metro Manila Subway Project.

The first phase is due to be finished in the third quarter of 2025. When the entire line is complete, in 2027, PNR Bicol passenger trains will run at a speed of up to 160km/h and freight trains will run at a speed of up to 100km/h.

PNR Bicol, also known as the South Long Haul project, is expected to reduce travel time between Manila and Legazpi City in Albay from the present 14-18 hours to just six using regular commuter trains, and 4 hours 30 minutes using express trains.

In his official Facebook account, Chinese ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian called the signing “another milestone for China–Philippines cooperation and friendship”.

As well as PNR Bicol, Chinese loans are being sought for the Mindanao Railway project and the Subic Clark Railway (see further reading).

The Philippine Railways Institute’s map of the Bicol Scheme (Public Domain)

Further reading:


Global Construction Review, 21.01.22

China Daily,  2022-01-26

Philippines News Agency, January 22, 2022.