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The long-awaited PNR Bicol is finally moving forward with construction works for the project’s Package 1 set to start in the first quarter of 2022.
“’Yung construction works mag-uumpisa po first quarter of 2022,” Philippine National Railways (PNR) General Manager Junn Magno said in a virtual press briefing on Thursday, 20 January 2022.
The announcement came after the monumental contract signing for the PNR Bicol Project's first 380 kilometers from Banlic, Calamba to Daraga, Albay. 
Department of Transportation’s (DOTr) Undersecretary for Railways Timothy John Batan said the DOTr will also now secure the loan financing for the PNR Bicol Package 1 contract. The DOTr, he added, will be requesting the Department of Finance (DOF) for project funding through an official development assistance (ODA) loan from China.
Usec. Batan also noted that unlike other projects funded by other development lenders, the PNR Bicol Package 1 project had its construction contract signed first before the funding from China is secured. He further noted that the PNR Bicol Package 1 at P142 billion, is one of the DOTr’s big ticket contracts.
"Nais po nating klaruhin na ito pong kontrata para sa package 1 ng PNR Bicol, ito po ang pinakamalaki nating kontrata pero hindi po ito ang pinakamalaki nating proyekto,” Usec. Batan said adding that DOTr’s biggest rail project is the North-South Commuter Railway (NSCR) System, followed by the Metro Manila Subway Project (MMSP).
For his part, DOTr Undersecretary for Finance Giovanni Lopez said Transport Secretary Art Tugade wants no delay in the implementation of rail projects amid the pandemic.
“Nabanggit ni Secretary Tugade na bagamat nasa pandemya tayo at patuloy na tumataas ang COVID cases, sana ay siguraduhin ng DOTr at PNR at tiyakin na patuloy na ipatupad ang mga proyekto. Lalo na ang proyektong pang-riles ay ‘wag maantala. Sabi po ni Secretary Tugade na walang halong pulitika ang serbisyo publiko and we owe this to the Filipino people,” Usec. Lopez said.
The DOTr and the PNR eye the completion of the Package 1's construction in 2024, with the start of operations in the third quarter of 2025. Meanwhile, the remaining PNR Bicol contract packages are set for completion between 2024 and 2026. The entire PNR Bicol line is scheduled to go online by 2027.
Once operational, PNR Bicol will have a total lenght of 560 kilometers and 35 stations. It will run from Manila through Laguna, Quezon, Camarines Sur, and then to Albay. It will have an extension line in Sorsogon and a branch line in Batangas. 
With a design speed of 120-160 kilometers per hour for passenger trains and 80-100 kilometers per hour for freight trains, PNR Bicol is expected to reduce travel time between Manila and Legazpi City in Albay from the present 14-18 hours to just 6 hours using regular commuter trains, and 4 hours and 30 minutes using the line’s express trains.
 DOTr-PNR Press Release
21 January 2021