Ayala eyes Manila-Legazpi railway project

Conglomerate Ayala Corp. has formally expressed its interest in the government’s biggest public private partnership (PPP) deal thus far—the South Line of the North South Railway Project—after interested groups were given more time to prepare qualification documents.

PNR file photo by Oscar Esmenda/BICOLSTANDARD.COM
PPP Center executive director Cosette Canilao said Ayala unit AC Infrastructure bought bid documents for the project last week.

This means at least three groups may qualify for the P171-billion project, which aims to revive commuter rail operations in Luzon, including a long-haul line from Manila to Legazpi City, Albay.

The two other groups are San Miguel Corp. and Metro Pacific Investments Corp.

Assuming no further delays, these groups are expected to submit their qualification documents on Dec. 1, 2015, a deadline the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) had already moved from Oct. 15, 2015, after one bidder sought additional time.

Canilao said other groups might still purchase bid documents in the coming weeks although she declined to give names.

Ayala and Metro Pacific have teamed up to bid for railway PPPs in the past. The tandem won the automated fare collection system PPP and the Light Rail Transit Line 1 extension and operations projects.

But Metro Pacific chair Manuel V. Pangilinan said the two groups have yet to finalize any partnership for the South Line of the North South Railway Project because of the uncertain schedule, with President Aquino stepping down in mid-2016.

“We have no idea yet as to the timing and whether they can bid it out in time,” Pangilinan said.

Based on its initial instruction to bidders before postponing the qualification process, the DOTC said they plan to award the project by April 27, 2016.

The PPP project, which involves 653 kilometers of railway lines, is expected to be operational by 2020. The winner of the deal will operate, maintain and upgrade the line over a period of 34 years.

Upon full operations, the DOTC said there would be 10 daily trips with seven train sets passing through 66 stations.

It is expected to yield a demand of 316,000 passengers a day on its opening year and is projected to entice around 44,000 public and private vehicle users to shift their commutes to the modernized railway.

The private sector partner is expected to design, construct, install, commission, finance, operate and maintain the existing 56-km commuter rail line from Tutuban in Manila to Calamba City, Laguna. (by Miguel R. Camus)