Thirteen influential foreign and local business groups in the country have urged the government to fast-track completion of the common train station that would link three major rail commuter lines in the metropolis, a much-awaited transport infrastructure that was being derailed by prolonged discussions in Congress.
After feuding parties have struck a compromise deal on where the common station would be located, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez questioned the new contract, claiming it would be disadvantageous to the government because of its lofty price and the prescribed penalties for delays in the construction of the common station.
“We urge the expeditious completion of the common train station to link the LRT-1, MRT-3 and the ongoing MRT-7 rail commuter lines in a location that will conveniently serve the expected 1.5 million commuters,” said the joint statement issued by the business groups.
“The common station impasse must be finally solved. Now that all stakeholders from the public and private sectors have agreed on a solution, all remaining hindrances must be quickly set aside to clear the way for its speedy execution,” they added.
The signatories to the collective statement were the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (Amcham), Australia-New Zealand Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines Inc. (Anzcham), Canadian Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (Cancham), European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (ECCP), Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines (Finex), IT and Business Process Association of the Philippines (Ibpap), Japanese Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (JCCP), Korean Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (KCCP), Makati Business Club (MBC), Management Association of the Philippines (MAP), Philippine Association of Multinational Companies Regional Headquarters Inc. (Pamuri), Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) and Semiconductors and Electronics Industries in the Philippines Inc. (Seipi).
The group threw full support to the memorandum of agreement executed by the operators of LRT-1, MRT-3 and MRT-7 and the Department of Transportation (DOTr). The parties agreed to build the common train station at the intersection of Edsa and North Ave. in Quezon City.
Property developers Ayala Land Inc. and SM Prime Holdings have also accepted the compromise deal after an eight-year tug-of-war.
“The agreement is most laudable as it represents an important breakthrough of the almost decade-long impasse in the construction of a vital mass transportation hub in Metro Manila and coming so soon after the Duterte administration took over,” the joint statement said.
“The grand train station will finally close the missing link between the heavily used MRT-3 and LRT-1 as well as incorporate them with the recently approved MRT-7, whose construction is ongoing. This hub will serve and be for the common benefit of the over a million daily commuters in the three train lines. Transfer from one line to another will become convenient and in a more pleasant environment.”
The design for the common station in North Avenue calls for a much larger and more spacious station with a total floor area of 13,700 square meters compared to 7,200 sq. ms. in the original 2009 plan. It will accommodate three train lines, including the MRT-7, compared to just two lines in the original plan. It will also provide double tracks to both LRT-1 and MRT-3 for reliability and efficiency of their operations.
Because of the improved features, the groups said that “necessarily, the new design will cost more.”
The business groups also agreed that the grand common station that would serve commuters in the three train lines must be undertaken by the government through the DOTr, except for the respective areas assigned to the private stakeholders and concessionaires.
“The government, by undertaking the common station and underwriting its cost, would facilitate the implementation of this long delayed project. By doing so, it would be a judicious investment of taxpayer funds on a vital mass transportation facility to serve train commuters,” they said.
“Going forward, we trust the project will be undertaken with transparency and adherence to required bidding rules and procedures to secure the most qualified contractor and best possible cost.”
These groups also recommended the use of faster and less traffic-disruptive construction method, such as pre-cast concrete sections for the viaduct as used in similar projects abroad.
The common station was originally intended to be built near the SM City Annex via a 2009 agreement with the Light Rail Transit Authority. The SM group had paid the government P200 million in a deal that also included naming rights. But the project encountered delays under the Aquino administration. In 2014, the transportation department decided to move the location to an area closer to Trinoma Shopping Mall, resulting in a legal battle between SM Prime Holdings and Ayala Land Inc.