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Railways in

the Philippines

Northern Commuter Rail to Clark
Artist’s inpression of part of the Northern Commuter Rail extension to Clark

The first railway in the Philippines opened in 1892 from the capital, Manila, to Dagupan in the north of the island of Luzon. It was 195km in length, and built to 3ft 6in (1067mm) gauge. The line was later extended northwards to San Fernando, and southwards to Legazpi, reaching the latter in 1938. Various branch lines were also constructed.

A number of narrow gauge railways were constructed for the transport of sugar cane. These are known to have existed on the islands of Luzon, Cebu, Negros and Panay, and may have existed on other islands. All had ceased operation by the end of the 20th century.

At its maximum extent the main line network encompassed over 1100km of route. Gradual decline meant that by 2006 only the 480km southern main line from Manila to Legazpi remained; in that year the line was badly damaged by two successive typhoons, resulting in closure. Rehabilitation and reopening is planned, but progress is slow. Since 2014 a regular commuter service has been operating betwen Manila and Alabang, a distance of 28km. A further 53km from Manila to Malolos is expected to open in 2021, and a final 38km to Clark and Clark International airport the following year.

A 2000km rail network has been proposed for the island of Mindanao. Implementation has suffered repeated delays and work on the ground has yet to commence, despite continued assurances that the first section, a 102km line between Tagum City and Digos City, is on target for opening in 2020.

Manila has a light rail metro, the first line of which opened in 1984. An underground heavy rail metro is under construction, with the first line projected for opening in 2022.

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Picture from a publicity image provided by Philippine National Railways

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