LRT 1 Cavite phase seen to finally start in H1 2019
The massive Cavite extension phase of the Light Rail Transit Line 1 (LRT-1), now about three years behind schedule, may start construction within the first half of 2019, according to its private sector operator.
The new schedule was the latest in a series of moving targets that emerged since the government awarded in 2014 the operations and maintenance of LRT-1 and its eventual 11.7-kilometer extension to Bacoor, Cavite, to Light Rail Manila Corp. (LRMC), a venture backed by Ayala Corp. and Metro Pacific Investments Corp.
Delays in the Aquino administration-era Public-Private Partnership (PPP) project were blamed mainly on right- of-way issues, a responsibility of the government. These are now “fairly complete” for the initial phase covering the first five train stations, LRMC president and CEO Juan F. Alfonso told reporters in an interview on Friday.
He said they were in talks with utilities such as power distributor Manila Electric Co., a unit of Metro Pacific, to relocate facilities along the Cavite extension project’s alignment. Alfonso said this included a so-called feeder line that provides electricity to the Mall of Asia complex in Metro Manila.
“We are targeting the last quarter of 2021 or early 2022,” Alfonso said when asked about the target completion date of the Cavite extension project.
The new schedule is well beyond the initial intention to finish the Cavite extension, which will increase its capacity from about half a million passengers a day to almost 800,000 and ease congested road corridors south of Metro Manila, by 2019. Under the contract, the right of way should have been delivered by the government in 2015, Alfonso said.
The Cavite extension project’s prospective completion comes even after Japan’s Mitsubishi Corp., through a Japan International Cooperation Agency loan, scheduled the delivery of 120 brand-new train coaches in 2020. Alfonso said they planned to start the construction of an expanded train depot in 2019 to house the new coaches.
The LRT-1 extension project, valued at about P65 billion, was the largest PPP deal under the previous administration. LRMC, which will operate the LRT-1 and its extension line through a 32-year concession period, was the only bidder that submitted an offer after rival groups, some of whom cited the poor viability of the project, backed out. The PPP project had to be auctioned off twice after the first round failed.
The LRT-1, which started operations in 1984, is the oldest of the three elevated railway lines in Metro Manila. When LRMC took over in September 2015, its condition was described as “severely deteriorated,” with power facilities and train stations requiring rehabilitation and just 77 of the promised 100 train coaches in running condition.
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