Unnecessary, costly delay
After eight years, an agreement on the common station that will link three railway lines in Quezon City was finally signed last week. It had been a costly and unnecessary delay that inconvenienced the riding public and increased the cost of the vital infrastructure project. But with the euphoria over the signing barely starting, another potential delay looms.
Claiming concern that the public would be shortchanged, the House of Representatives said it would review the deal to construct the common train station that will link Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT3), Light Rail Transit Line 1 (LRT1) and the proposed MRT7. MRT3 traverses the main thoroughfare Edsa. LRT1 runs the stretch of Rizal and Taft Avenues from Monumento all the way to Pasay City, and it was extended a few years ago to link up with the end of MRT3 on North Avenue in Quezon City. MRT7 is to be put up by San Miguel Corp. from North Avenue on Edsa all the way to San Jose del Monte in Bulacan and is scheduled to be on line in 2020.
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez was quoted in a radio interview as saying that the House would study the costs and benefits of the project. Alvarez’s main concern, it seems, is the fact that the government will be spending so much—or about P2.8 billion—to put up the main component of the station. He was also wondering if the proposed common station was really for the convenience of millions of passengers who use the railway system.
The government, as owner of the railway lines, is to shoulder the cost of the station. Its original budget was about P1.5 billion in 2008 for a station at the SM Annex to link MRT3 and LRT1. This swelled to about P2.6 billion (still at SM Annex) in 2013 due to design changes because three lines (LRT1, MRT3 and MRT7) were already being considered. Then it was moved to Trinoma in 2014 with a budget of only P1.4 billion. The cost to the government now is higher because the station will be nearly twice the size of the original and can handle about 40,000 people an hour, or more than double the original design. SMC will shoulder the part linking its MRT7 while Ayala is supposed to shoulder a portion of the bill, too. Work on the common station on Edsa and North Avenue in Quezon City is scheduled to begin before the end of the year, after detailed engineering designs have been finalized, and will be completed by April 2019.
The agreement signed last week is expected to pave the way for the filing of a joint motion to the Supreme Court to lift the temporary restraining order it issued in August 2014 stopping the government from transferring the location of the common station to Trinoma. It was based on a Sept. 28, 2009, agreement with the Sy family that the station should be beside SM North Edsa, after the mall developer paid the government P200 million for the naming rights to it. Despite this, the Aquino administration in 2014 claimed that putting up the station near Trinoma would result in more than P1 billion in savings to the government and benefit passengers.
Credit should go to Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade, who promised to get all stakeholders to agree on the common station within his first 100 days. Indeed, it was during a meeting last Sept. 8 when SM’s Tessie Sy and Hans Sy, Ayala Corp. chair Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, SMC boss Ramon Ang, and Metro Pacific Investments Corp. chief Manuel V. Pangilinan agreed on the location of the common station.
The final agreement reached last week now gives the riding public something to look forward to within a few years—convenience and safety when changing trains to reach one’s destination. Given the high cost of delay and the severe inconvenience to the riding public that this causes, politics should now be kept as far away from this project as possible. And if the House really has concerns about the cost, this can be adequately answered by the Department of Transportation and the other stakeholders without need of a televised circus in the session halls of Congress.
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