Common train station faces delay
The long-running dispute over a common railway station in Quezon City, just weeks ago deemed on a final path to resolution among rival private-sector interests and the Department of Transportation, could face fresh delays.
Lawmakers are set to propose yet another “win-win” solution this week as they hope to shift to the private sector the entire P2.8-billion financial cost the DOTr committed to spend on the station.
Upon its targeted completion by 2019, the common station would link the busy Metro Rail Transit Line 3, Light Rail Transit Line 1 and eventually MRT-7, providing a convenient access point for millions of commuters expected to use the elevated train systems.
The plan for a new deal was disclosed on Monday by Catanduanes Rep. Cesar Sarmiento, chair of the House committee on transportation.
“The solution is a win-win at no cost to government,” Sarmiento claimed, adding that the new solution would also help stave off future lawsuits.
Militant groups and lawmakers like House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez questioned the P2.8 billion that the DOTr said it would spend for the station. This represented the lion’s share of the development expense, which requires funds to be approved by Congress.
The DOTr said the cost increased from previous estimates since the station’s size, at 13,700 square meters, was double the design in 2009. This was to accommodate passenger convenience and larger traffic that the original design did not anticipate.
“We need to find a solution to be able to use that [common] station,” Sarmiento said.
Sarmiento said he hoped private sector players such as SM Prime Holdings Inc., San Miguel Corp. (which will operate MRT-7 to Bulacan province) and Light Rail Manila Corp. (the LRT-1 operator owned by Ayala Corp. and Metro Pacific Investments Corp.), would agree to the new compromise deal since “they would also benefit.”
Some of those companies declined to comment on lawmakers’ plans for them to pay the entire cost of the station— an expense typically shouldered by the government.
The proposal itself would be shown in more detail during a House transportation committee hearing tomorrow, Sarmiento said.
Light Rail Manila CEO Rogelio Singson said on Monday the group was open to hearing lawmakers pitch their proposal this week. “We just came from Malaysia to look at the gold standard of LRTs, which I think is Malaysia. The stations are very generous in terms of space allocation and yet their ridership is less than half of ours. Government spent on those,” he said.
He added that making private sector shoulder the full cost of building the common station could result in higher train fares.