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Proposed Metro Cebu Subway: Cebu City feasibility study endorsement awaited

DOTr says they need this requirement to move forward with the project

By: Niña Mae C. Oliverio - Multimedia Reporter - CDN Digital | July 11,2024 - 01:56 PM

Metro Cebu Subway

DOTr’s proposed subway project/Sugbo News photo

CEBU CITY, Philippines — As part of the 67.5-km subway proposal, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) is now waiting for the endorsement from Cebu City government to conduct a feasibility study for a thorough planning of the project.

In an executive session on Wednesday at the City Council, DOTr Assistant Secretary Leonel De Velez said the agency would need the city’s endorsement to conduct a feasibility study so they could identify the affected areas in Cebu City for the Metro Cebu Urban Mass Rapid Transit (UMRT).

Based on De Velez’ presentation, the Metro Cebu UMRT will have two phases which will cover two lines: central and coastal.

The Phase 1 will be the Central Line and it will cover Danao City, Liloan, Consolacion, Mandaue City, Cebu City, Talisay City, City of Naga, San Fernando, and Carcar City.

Meanwhile, the Phase 2 which is the Coastal Line will include Talisay City, Cebu City, Mandaue City, and Lapu-Lapu City.

He said the DOTr has access to some potential funding partners such as the Asian Development Bank as one of their resources to conduct a feasibility study.

However, it is a requirement for the DOTr to receive the endorsements of the areas that will benefit from the study.

These are some of the “pre-conditions” that the DOTr has to meet before they can allocate resources and start the study.

Crafted from a Master Plan

The Transport Secretary said that in 2019, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the Metro Cebu Development and Coordinating Board collaborated to formulate the Metro Cebu Urban Transport Master Plan.

The Master Plan identified the need for a railway-based transport backbone and proposed the establishment of the Metro Cebu UMRT.

De Velez said that the Master Plan still requires “more detailed feasibility study.”

“That is what we are hoping for endorsement from the various local governments that will be benefited by the project, including particularly the Province of Cebu,” De Velez said.

He added that any detailed alignment will be subject to study in coordination with the LGUs involved.


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De Velez said that passengers of Metro Cebu UMRT would expect 90 minutes travel time between Danao City to Carcar City and they would be looking at the density of around four passengers per square meter at peak hours.

Moreover, the agency is also looking at the possibility of having 24/7 normal commercial operation services. They also have provisions for active transport like bike racks and showers.

They also plan to have interface systems for seamless and optimized interconnection and a barrier-free and accessible design with non-visual redundancy.

The construction of the Metro Manila Subway is already ongoing and is targeted to be fully operational in 2029.

De Velez said one of the reasons why the agency thought the underground railway system might also be applicable for Metro Cebu and Cebu Province was that it would minimize the environmental and social impacts during the project implementation and the necessity for extensive land acquisition.


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Conduct of surveys

Councilor Jocelyn Pesquera asked if DOTr had already come up with probable or possible routes for the Central Line.

De Velez said there would be “no route yet for the Central Line” and it would only be “determined during the feasibility study.”

“At this point, we just know that we intend to connect the various LGUs. But as for where the railway itself will be going, this is still subject for a feasibility study,” De Velez said.

He said that the feasibility study would involve surveys, engineering surveys like a topographic map, parcellary surveys, and ground investigation; hence, at present, there would be no route yet.

Pesquera said that as per Cebu City’s policy, anything related to the railway would all be underground.

“But then if just within the central business district in downtown or uptown, all should be underground. While we can accommodate the above ground, only the portion of Tisa and Banilad side but for the business district it should all be underground,” Pesquera said.

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De Velez assured that the railway would be fully underground because that would be the only way to connect with various LGUs without interrupting the activities on the ground.

Meanwhile, he said there would only be one facility that would be above ground which would be the railway depot “but that does not have to be in the middle of downtown or crowded area.”

“We can just possibly look at locating this at an LGU in Metro Cebu which has more available land surface but for the main train tracks, the subway tunnels, these will be underground… The only thing we need above ground will be the station entrance that will be small compared to the underground railway,” the Assistant Transport Secretary said.

Pesquera then said that a feasibility study would provide them a clearer vision of the project. Hence, they will include this in the Council’s agenda in the next regular session on Wednesday, July 17.

Ways to accelerate the completion

De Velez said they had already been coordinating with the Capitol with this proposal.

And during their meeting with Governor Gwendolyn Garcia, she requested DOTr to accelerate the completion of the railway and they were already looking at it.

In reference to the Metro Manila Subway, they finished the legal engineering design in 2019, it took them 10 years to complete the project which included the underground construction.

“One of the requests of the Governor before we are able to get her endorsement of the Province of Cebu was to shorten the time,” De Velez said.

With that, he said they would also be looking for some examples of subways in other countries that were completed in five years.

In the feasibility study, they will look at the construction methodology. Once the feasibility study is done, part of that is what the agency calls the construction methodology approach.

De Velez said one of the ways to accelerate the construction of the subway would be to use multiple tunnel boring machines that would drill the tunnels.

Cost of fare

Subway is much more expensive than an elevated railway but with the conditions of the Cebu Metropolitan Area.

Consequent to that, they will also include a feasibility study to identify the fare of the UMRT. For this, they will need a statement preference survey which will be endorsed by the Province and other LGUs.

They will conduct a willingness to have a pay survey to determine how much a person is willing to spend to travel one kilometer in 10 minutes, for example.

In Metro Manila Subway, the boarding fare is P22 plus P2.2 additional per kilometer distance.

Cebu City Planning and Development Office Head, Architect Joseph Michael Espina, who was also present during the executive session, expressed his appreciation of the DOTr’s initiative.

Espina said the DOTr’s initiative was already in time of the City’s plans as well as they would also be studying “the possibility of dispersal” since Cebu City was already congested and a car centric city.

Espina presented their “proposed menu of mass transit options” which is a “wide range” of options starting from least expensive in cost to the most expensive.

“I agree that we have to study it now because the mass transit option you are talking about the subway takes us years to implement. In Metro Manila, it took you about 12 years, to 2029, yet imagine in Cebu we’ll be out of this world by that time,” Espina said.

Other options

Espina said that the Cebu Bus Rapid Transit (CBRT) , which is already underway, is one of their least expensive options.

They also have plans for a “growth center” in the north district of Cebu City. Espina said they would be seeing the possibility for an MRT which could connect the northern coast center in barangays Pit-os, Pulangbato, and Binaliw.

He added they also had a proposed monorail which should be fit for the UMRT’s coastal line.

He said he had also met with other local development planners from Mandaue City, Lapu-Lapu City, and Talisay City to discuss the possibility of the coastal line of the UMRT.

“So we thought that we can already talk among the planners on the possibility [on] where we can accommodate the routes for this mass transit,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Department of Public Works and Highways in Cebu City welcomed the request for a feasibility study of Metro Cebu UMRT and they would coordinate with the DOTr when this would be done.

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TAGS: Cebu City, DOTr, Proposed Metro Cebu Siubway Project

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