DOTC rail chief cites defects of station transfer
Follow up: Something is rotten in the Department of Transportation and Communications under Secretary Joseph Abaya. The bad smell comes from the award of the construction of the LRT line extension from Parañaque to Cavite and the transfer of the common station in Quezon City.
Earlier, another line, the MRT7 from Bulacan to North Edsa, had been approved by the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) and awarded to San Miguel Corp. This line was conceptualized and approved during the time of Transportation Secretary
Leandro Mendoza and subsequently upheld by his successor, Secretary Jose de Jesus.
Under this plan, MRT7 will end at SM North Edsa where the MRT3 on Edsa and LRT 1 from Rizal Avenue will also end. Thus, a common station for all three lines was planned to be
located there so that commuters from all three lines could transfer from any line to another without difficulty.
This was approved by the Neda and its construction started. SM contributed P200 million to this project.
When the LRT extension to Cavite was awarded by the DOTC under Abaya to the consortium of Ayala and Metro Pacific Development Corp., the common station was suddenly transferred from SM North Edsa to its competitor, the Ayala-owned Trinoma. The perplexing thing is that although the Cavite line will end in Parañaque, the common station, which has nothing to do with that line, was packaged with it. Even more perplexing, the common station is located six cities away, in Quezon City. It is not surprising, however, that the transferred common station will be located at Trinoma which is owned by Ayala. The malls owned by SM and Ayala are principal competitors in that area. Furious, SM filed a petition in the Supreme Court for the issuance of a TRO and a permanent injunction against the transfer. The Supreme Court issued the TRO.
Abaya said that relocating the station at Trinoma would be cheaper. But how can it be cheaper when two stations will be built instead of only one?
No less than DOTC’s rail transport planning chief, Joel R. Magbanua, had warned that the Trinoma common station proposal is “indefensible.” In an internal memorandum to Transportation Undersecretary Rene Limcaoco as early as March 18, 2014, Magbanua said that relocating the common station to Trinoma would open the government to “additional legal action” from the operator of MRT7. Which is exactly what happened: SM filed a complaint in the Supreme Court.
By simply changing the name “joint station” to “common station,” Abaya transferred the station to Trinoma.
Recalling the arbitration case filed by MRT Holdings in Singapore, Magbanua said that the transfer of the common station to Trinoma is “another arbitration case waiting to happen.” The much-talked about “buy-out” of MRT3,” he added, “may not be possible in the immediate future as it appears that MRTC is not interested.”
The original design of the common station in front of SM North Edsa where LRT Line 1, MRT3 and the future MRT7 are housed under one roof, was decided by the DOTC, Light Rail Transit Authority, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industries and the Universal LRT Corp., the private proponent of MRT7, Magbanua said. “This decision has the full backing of Congress which, in 2009, cautioned the DOTC and LRTA not to repeat the Cubao experience where passengers have to walk more than 400 meters to transfer from MRT3 to LRT2 and vice versa.”
The biggest defect of the transfer of the common station from SM to Trinoma, Magbanua said, is that it would inconvenience commuters transferring from MRT7 to MRT3 and LRT1, and vice versa. Passengers, he said, would have to walk 350 meters from one station to the other. An estimated 110,000 commuters daily would be inconvenienced.
“The public outcry will haunt us for as long as we live,” the rail transport chief of the DOTC said. “Public interest should be the paramount reason to consider in locating the common station.”
The location options cannot be compared “apple to apple,” Magbanua said. “A common station in SM North is an apple while the Trinoma station is an orange. For an apple-to-apple or orange-to-orange comparison, the same station design should be used whether the location is in SM North or Trinoma.
“Comparing the cost of building the station in the two locations is meaningless because cost is not the only decision parameter,” he continued. “There are (the downsides), like inconvenience and discomfort that cannot be factored in the comparison because they are difficult to quantify.”
Furthermore, he said “implementation of the Trinoma option will cause disruption and inconvenience to the MRT3 operation. Judging from the long lines of passengers wanting to ride the trains, even a simple speed restriction during the estimated 30-day work to fix the 174-meter crossover at the MRT North Avenue station will add further suffering to the riding public as they will have to wait longer for the arrival of turn-around trains.”
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