Common station seen ready by 2020

The planned MRT-LRT common station at north Edsa (Photo from the Department of Transportation)

The groundbreaking of a long-delayed common railway station project in Metro Manila was held yesterday, with completion seen in at least two and a half years or early 2020.

The event, largely ceremonial, set the wheels in motion for an issue that dates back to 2009. It  started during the Arroyo administration and had stalled during the entire Aquino administration, during which a legal row erupted due to its decision to transfer the station’s location.

The current site, between SM City North Edsa and Ayala Land Inc.’s Trinoma Shopping Mall in Quezon City, was agreed upon by all parties last January after months of negotiations with the Department of Transportation under President Duterte.

During the ceremony yesterday, Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade reminded all groups that a groundbreaking event was one thing and finishing the project was another matter.

Private sector stakeholders, led by officials from San Miguel Corp., SM Prime Holdings Inc., Ayala Land and Metro Pacific Investments Corp., all committed to the timelines set by government.

“Today, we celebrate because we see unity,” Tugade said. “In the next two and a half to three years, we will again celebrate because we will witness the operation of the common unified station.”

The common station aims to link the Light Rail Transit Line 1, the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 and the MRT-7, which will connect to Bulacan province and is slated for completion by 2020.

The station will cost the government P2.8 billion to build. At 13,700 square meters, it is more than double the size of the original design in 2009.

Rogelio Singson, the CEO of LRT-1 operator Light Rail Manila Corp. until the end of this month, said the project was expected to handle between 300,000 and 500,000 passengers a day.

“The common station will provide safety and convenience to hundreds of thousands of passengers. We are glad to be a step closer to completion and we promise to go full blast with construction,” Bernard Dy, Ayala Land president and CEO, said.

The DOTr noted that the design ensured “a defined level of service by all parties, convenient walk in the platform, bigger space and connection between two major malls.”

“It will also deliver dual tracks for LRT-1, MRT-3 and MRT-7 for increased operational efficiency. The ground level of the Common Station will service road-based PUVs  (public utility vehicles) for intermodal interoperability,” the DOTr noted.

The common station, originally located near the SM City North Edsa Annex, came under review under President Aquino. It stalled after then Transportation Secretary Joseph Abaya decided in 2014 to move the location near the Trinoma shopping mall, citing cost benefits.

This prompted SM Prime to sue the government for breach of contract. With the signing of the agreement with other stakeholders last January, the SM Group committed to withdraw its lawsuit.

Ayala Corp. and Metro Pacific currently operate the LRT-1 while SMC is building the MRT-7.