Common train station contract finally signed
The railway common station project, stuck in limbo for nearly eight years as mall titans SM North Edsa of the Sy family and Trinoma of Ayala fought for its prime location and millions in daily business foot traffic, now has a clear way forward.
Work is scheduled to begin before the yearend and upon completion in three years, commuters will stroll between the two malls to their destinations for anywhere from 50 to 200 meters.
The Department of Transportation (DOTr) sealed with local conglomerates on Wednesday a memorandum of agreement, which outlined both an implementation blueprint for the crucial piece of infrastructure and a path to end a bruising legal row that had oppressed travelers on Light Rail Transit Line 1 (LRT 1) and Metro Rail Transit (MRT) for years because of the government’s failure to connect 1.2 kilometers of disrupted tramline on Edsa.
The project, to rise on Edsa and North Avenue in Quezon City, will link MRT 3, LRT 1 and the MRT 7 train line from Quezon City to San Jose del Monte City in Bulacan province, and is slated for completion by 2020.
The property is currently being used as a parking lot for Trinoma mall.
The plan was to start construction of the common station at the end of 2017, after detailed engineering designs have been finalized.
Completion was pegged around April 2019.
Millions of commuters
Once done, it would be a major transport hub potentially serving millions of commuters daily.
The construction schedule above was a key detail in the agreement signed by the DOTr, Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), along with SM Prime Holdings Inc., San Miguel Corp. (SMC) and Light Rail Manila Corp., the LRT 1 operator owned by Ayala Corp. and Metro Pacific Investments Corp., and their affiliates.
The stakeholders last gathered on Sept. 28, 2016, to seal a memorandum of understanding that, while lacking in details, was still hailed as a landmark event, given the way it brought diverse interests together toward a unified goal of completing the railway station project.
“It signifies public-private sector cooperation agreement on this project,” Metro Pacific chair Manuel V. Pangilinan said during the signing event on Wednesday.
Also present were SM Prime executive committee chair Hans Sy, SMC president Ramon S. Ang, and Ayala CEO Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala.
They underscored the role Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade played in moving the common station project forward.
On the public sector side were Tugade and Public Works Secretary Mark Villar.
Compared with the document signed last September, Wednesday’s agreement had a more definitive sense on the roles each stakeholder would play.
It included design parameters of the 13,700-square meter station, passenger flow within the facility, a commitment to ensure traffic management for the roads below, and which public and private entities will shoulder specific expenses.
According to the DOTr, it will spend P2.8 billion to build the portion that will house the platform and concourse of the LRT 1 and MRT 3.
The total project cost was likely larger as Ayala and its partners, as well as SMC will spend for other sections of the station.
Light Rail Manila, Ayala and SMC will also handle maintenance of their respective areas outside MRT 3, which DOTr will maintain.
Lifting of SC order
As noted, another key item was the lifting of a Supreme Court temporary restraining order on a new station.
That came after SM Prime sued the transportation department for breach of contract in 2014.
“After the detailed designs are completed by the fourth quarter of 2017, an appeal for a dismissal of the case will be filed by all parties, paving the way for the final legal resolution on the common station,” the DOTr said on Wednesday.
The issue over the common station dated back to 2009, when SM Prime signed an agreement with the government for the station to be built near the annex mall of SM City North Edsa.
P200-M deal with gov’t
It also paid government P200 million in a deal that also included naming rights.
The implementation of the common station in SM North Edsa suffered delays as the Aquino administration took over in 2010.
Then, a legal fight erupted after that same government in 2014 decided to move the location of the station to an area near the Trinoma shopping mall.
The DOTr in 2014 said the location near Trinoma was cheaper at P1.4 billion, although that project was criticized because of the long distance commuters needed to walk to change train lines.
The current plan was, thus, to build the common station in between SM City North Edsa and Trinoma.
The DOTr also said on Wednesday that passenger convenience was the “prime” consideration for the project.
It noted that commuters transferring from MRT 3 to LRT 1 and MRT 7 will have to walk only 50 to 200 meters, depending on which train they use.
The passenger concourse can be expanded depending on future passenger needs.
There were other benefits to the current design. These were seamless transfer from one line to another, convenient walk for platform transfers, a connection to two major malls and a more spacious station.
As part of the project, the DPWH will also pursue the so-called Metro Manila Interchange Construction project Phase VI.
This was an underpass along Edsa where the common station project will be built.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.