North South Commuter Railway Phase 2, Detailed Design
The North-South Commuter Railway (NSCR) will deliver a world-class passenger rail service, decongesting traffic in Metro Manila by providing an alternate and sustainable means of transportation.


The project is part of the Philippine Government’s objective to connect and spur economic and urban growth in the northern and southern parts of Metro Manila, the most populous region on the island.


The NSCR Phase 1 runs from Tutuban in the north of the city of Manila to Malolos in the province of Bulacan. Phase 2 is an extension of the NSCR project comprising the Malolos-Clark Railway Project (MCRP) to the north, and the North-South Railway Project (NSRP) to the south.



SMEC was engaged by Oriental Consultants Global (OCG) to assist in the preparation of the basic and detailed design related to the civil works of the NSCR project. OCG is a multinational consulting firm specialising in providing comprehensive services in engineering, infrastructure development, project management and technical assistance across various sectors worldwide.


Key Challenges

For the MCRP line, the biggest design hurdle was how the cultural and heritage areas located on the station sites would be preserved.


The NSRP phase of the project will be built over the existing Philippine National Railway track from Blumentritt in Manila to Calamba City in the Southern Luzon province of Laguna. Right-of-way acquisition was a design challenge for the NSRP due to the dense urban surroundings. In some cases, buildings and bridges needed to be demolished or realigned to give way to the project. A high transmission tower line owned by the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines was one example of the complexity presented by the existing urban fabric. The rail operator Philippine National Railway also requested that construction be undertaken concurrently without suspending train services.


Bespoke Solutions

The national government’s goal was for the design to finish as soon as possible. The SMEC team adopted several systems and processes to ensure work packages could be managed and verified under an accelerated delivery program.


To help ensure the project would proceed to construction without delays, SMEC used a state-of-the-art engineering design solution utilising software-as-a-service (SaaS) Applications.


MIDAS FEA NX was used to simulate the behaviour of rail tracks under various loading conditions, such as the weight of trains, wind loads, and temperature changes. It was also used to optimize the design of rail components to reduce weight, improve efficiency, and minimize costs. STAAD was adopted to perform structural optimisation of rail components, optimising various design parameters, such as section sizes, member lengths, and connection details, to achieve the desired performance and safety requirements.12D software was used to create, design, and analyse the railway alignments, corridors, and earthworks. C3D was applied as a comprehensive 3D modeling and analysis tool to design and analyse railway tracks and tunnel. HEC-RAS was employed to analyse water flow and flooding risks around railway tracks and other structures.


The project team recommended the adoption of a structural steel construction method for platforms, stations and viaduct bridge as steel is not only faster to install and less costly to maintain but is also cheaper than concrete, without compromising safety and quality.


The depot and control centres’ locations were designed to be easily accessible to the rail network and close to major highways and transportation hubs. A key consideration was ensuring the depots and control centres are located away from flood-prone areas and able to withstand the potential risks posed by natural disasters. One mitigation strategy adopted was the use of a suitable filling material after a thorough and thoughtful analysis of hydrological and hydraulic conditions, as well as the potential impacts of climate change.


The structural design of the tunnels, particularly the MCRP line’s 2.7 km underground tunnel, determined the materials to be used, the thickness of the tunnel lining, and the methods of tunnel support such as rock bolting, shotcreting and steel ribs. Key design considerations involved the appropriate ventilation, fire protection and drainage systems to be used to ensure the tunnel sections are safe, efficient and cost-effective.


“Whilst the threat of SMEC’s services slowing down loomed due to movement restrictions at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, our project team quickly transitioned to virtual meetings and worked closely with Oriental Consultants Global and the Department of Transportation to help mitigate delays and ensure timely completion of key design deliverables,” said Larry Pastrana, Project Team Leader and Vice-President for Transport SMEC Philippines. “We followed a concrete work plan with the client, the implementing agency and other stakeholders to continue operating efficiently in a hybrid environment, and placed emphasis on improving communication lines to ensure smooth interfacing.”



Construction of the entire railway network is expected to be completed by 2028 providing an integrated commuter service for the Philippines’ most populous region.


The MCRP and NSRP railway network will benefit around 800,000 daily commuters and offer a convenient, reliable, safe and cheap alternative to commuting.


Travel time between the entire stretch from Calamba City south of Manila to Clark in Pampanga is expected to be reduced by about two hours.

new MCRP Stations and substations
new NSRP Stations and substations
MCRP railway viaduct
NSRP railway viaduct


Talk to one of our specialists about the North South Commuter Railway Phase 2 project.