The Department of Transportation (DOTr) clarified issues surrounding the memorandum of agreement (MOA) it entered into for the construction of the common station that will connect three railway systems in Metro Manila.
For one, the original location of the common station as identified in 2006 was in front of the Trinoma mall, said Timothy Joseph Batan, DOTr senior project development officer.
This is opposed to claims by commuter groups and lawmakers that the original location of the project was in front of SM North EDSA Annex, said Batan, who issued the clarification during the February 13 joint hearing by the Senate committees on public services and public works.
He noted that the plan was changed only in 2009 when the site of the common station was transferred to in front of the SM annex. In 2010, another proposal again attempted to change the location of the station before the suggested site was moved back in 2011 to Trinoma. This prompted the SM group to file a case seeking to prevent the project from moving forward.
In September last year, DOTr and the private companies involved in the dispute agreed to settle the case and chose to place the common station in between the two.
This paved the way for the signing last January 18 of the MOA to build the 13,700-square-meter common station linking the Light Rail Transit Line 1, the Metro Rail Transit 3, and the soon-to-be constructed MRT 7.
The MOA was signed by DOTr together with SM Prime Holdings, Inc., Universal LRT Corporation Limited of San Miguel Corporation (SMC), Light Rail Manila Corporation, North Triangle Depot Commercial Corporation, Department of Public Works and Highways, and Light Rail Transit Authority.
As for claims the project did not undergo public consultation, Batan said that while a MOA has been signed, the project will still have to secure the usual clearances for big-ticket projects. DOTr will be submitting the project for the review and approval of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Board, which will consult with other government agencies and local government units involved.
Senator Grace Poe told DOTr during the hearing to make sure the public can check the details of the project before it is approved.
Batan also explained why the government will be spending P2.8 billion for Area A of the common station. Area B will be financed, built, operated, maintained, and developed by NTDCC, an affiliate of Ayala Land, Inc., while Area C will be financed and built by SMC, which will also operate, maintain, and develop the area.
He said that in 2009, the NEDA approved an additional P777.6 million to the original project cost due to the change in project location to the SM mall area. This means that the cost back then was really P1.5 billion and not just P780 million. He noted, too, that the planned area for the station at the time was smaller and only involved two one-track lines and one two-track line.
On the other hand, the new project involves a bigger area with a capacity of 1.2 million passengers per day and is “future proof,” Batan said.
He explained that it’s “not enough that stations are just near each other” because this would limit the space for accommodating the growing number of passengers. A bigger space was also considered because DOTr foresees users of the common station increasing to 478,000 foot traffic per day by 2020.
The station can also be expanded when needed because under the contract, the private concessionaire will have to maintain a defined level of service.
The new plan also involves two-track lanes per rail system, instead of just one track, for faster loops of trains.
Batan said the P2.8 billion cost is for “improved passenger experience and operational efficiency.”
DOTr also assured that there will be no concomitant increase in fares under the current plan.
The target date to start building the common station is December this year, after involved parties have filed a joint manifestation advising the Supreme Court of the MOA that proposes to remove the TRO on the project so it can finally begin.
After the detailed designs are completed by the fourth quarter of 2017, an appeal to dismiss the case will be filed by all parties, paving the way for the final legal resolution of the common station deadlock.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net