A TOP official of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) said the government needs to improve railway services before it should propose a fare hike.
When service is improved, people are happy about it and so a fare hike will be more acceptable, Transportation Undersecretary Jose Perpetuo Lotilla told reporters at the sidelines of the UK Transport Solutions business forum of Thursday.
“Improvements cost money. Di naman pwedeng [One cannot have] just a one-way street. I think, after improvements are made, mas madali ang public acceptance kumbaga [public acceptance will be easier, as it were].”
“Meron undertaking yan [There is an undertaking] to the concessionaire that there will be a fare hike at a certain point. Part yan nung [It is part of the] bidding parameters,” Lotilla added.
In July, DOTC refuted claims that the bid award of the P65-billion Light Rail Transit Line 1 (LRT-1) Cavite Extension (Cavex) project will result in a fare increase for LRT-1 passengers on August 1 this year.
DOTC acknowledged the proposed P 11+1 fare increase for LRT-1, LRT-2, and MRT-3 riders, but stressed that it was completely separate from the Cavex Private-Public Partnership project.
Under the proposed “11+1” formula, passengers will be charged P11 upon boarding trains and pay an additional P1 for every kilometer traveled.
The DOTC, the Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA) and the Metro Rail Transit Corp. (MRTC) have been seeking a fare increase since 2010, in order to improve their facilities and services to the public.
The proposal has already undergone two public consultations, although no date has been set for the implementation of the fare hike.
In December last year, DOTC, LRTA, and MRTC proposed to rationalize the rail fare system of Metro Manila by adopting the “users pay” principle, whereby commuters will be charged based on the distance they travel instead of the number of stations they pass, in a format similar to that of other public transport modes such as jeepneys and buses.
The DOTC and the two light rail operators did not explain, however, how the kilometer-based fare would be calculated and applied to the commuter trains, as all three lines will presumably continue to have fixed stations.
The fare increase is projected to provide an additional P2.06 billion in revenues to the LRTA and MRTC. This will be deducted from the subsidy that government provides for the operation of the LRT Line 1 and 2, and the MRT Line 3. The added revenues can also be used to enhance services, improve facilities, and providing better maintenance works.
“LRT-1 may commitment ng [for a]fare hike, LRT-2, wala pa nga eh di ba [none yet], so it will depend on the concession agreement. MRT ganun din [the same thing],” Lotilla said.
Lotilla added that, “Consultation muna [first]. Remember one basic thing, a lot of our people are dependent on the rail system for coming to work.”
Earlier, LRTA said that ongoing and recently completed projects involve medical and security upgrades such as the provision of ambulances, first aid kits, stretchers and wheelchairs in its stations.