LRT-1 operator eyes new merchants for stations

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The new operator of the Light Rail Transit Line 1 (LRT-1) is looking to accommodate commercial outlets and not just focus on improving operations and rehabilitating the 31-year-old system.

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“We are also planning to add, actually redevelop whole stations, to be able to accommodate retail and advertising,” Light Rail Manila Corporation (LRMC) business development head Janet Bautista told reporters last week.

LRMC took over the operations and maintenance of LRT-1—the oldest light rail system in the country—from the government in September.

The firm is owned by Light Rail Manila Holdings, Inc. (LRMH), Metro Pacific Light Rail Corporation (MPLRC) and Macquarie Infrastructure Holdings (Philippines) Pte. Limited. LRMH is jointly owned by MPLRC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Metro Pacific Investments Corp., and AC Infrastructure Holdings Corp., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Ayala Corp.

Although the company’s priority right now is to improve the train system’s operations, Bautista said they also wanted to maximize the use of station space.

“We are mainly [focused]on rail operation but we are actually looking at how to optimize the use of the station spaces. We are planning to improve on the retail and advertising spaces,” she said.

LRMC is continuing to honor existing retail and advertising contracts “but once we are done with the improvements we can bring in new merchants, new contractors,” Bautista said.

LRMC has said it would be spending P500 million rehabilitate and improve all 20 stations of the LRT-1 line, starting with the Doroteo Jose station that connects to the LRT-2 Recto station.

Under its 32-year concession, the firm will also extend the LRT-1 from its current Baclaran endpoint to Bacoor, Cavite. The line, whose other end is in Munoz, Quezon City, will lengthen to 32.4 kilometers from the current 20.7 kilometers.

When it took over, LRMC said it would be working on a “severely deteriorated” train system “where maintenance has been a challenge over the past years.”

“Out of the 100 light rail vehicles committed to be delivered to LRMC upon take-over, only approximately 77 . . . are in running condition. It will take time to fix the fleet and restore the system to optimal operating levels,” it said.

“The real benefit of an improved train system will not be felt by the riding public immediately but will come in due course particularly when the new trains are delivered by the government as part of its obligations under the concession agreement, which trains are scheduled to arrive in 2017, barring any delays,” it added.

“This notwithstanding, LRMC is committed to improve the public’s riding experience over time and gradually bring the LRT-1 system to better operating levels.”

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