Finally: A common station for LRT, MRT lines

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The LRT, MRT common station will be built between SM North and TriNoma in Quezon City.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — After seven years of wrangling and disagreements, stakeholders in the proposed common station for the LRT and MRT train lines finally agreed where the station should be built.

Both SM Prime Holdings, Inc. (SMPHI) and Ayala Land, Inc. (ALI) signed Wednesday the memorandum of understanding with transportation officials on the proposed LRT-1, MRT-3 and MRT-7 Unified Station, which will be built between SM North EDSA and TriNoma in Quezon City.

"We have waited with uncertainty for more than six years," Department of Transportation (DOTr) Secretary Arthur Tugade said. "Now, you are looking at a fruition in two-and-a-half-to-three years. I think that is a big jumpstart."

With construction starting before the yearend, the station is expected to be fully operational in three years and will be able to serve 40,000 commuters an hour, benefiting over a million commuters in Metro Manila everyday.

The common station will also include an atrium to help commuters transfer from one train line to another.

The memorandum will pave the way for filing a joint motion to lift the outstanding temporary restraining order (TRO) issued by the Supreme Court.

Designs being finalized

The architectural and engineering designs aren't final yet, as well as the cost and name of the station.

"We have to finalize the engineering details to be able to find out the cost, but it shouldn't be far from the estimate previously," DOTr Spokesperson Cherie Mercado said. "But the benefit is you will get to connect the three stations for the three lines. It's really for the good of a lot of commuters that there's already an interconnection that not far from each other."

Meanwhile, some groups are hoping for more transparency from the government in terms of what happened to the project.

"Bakit hindi na umubra yung original design eh 'yun pumasa na 'yun eh hanggang sa NEDA?" Bayan Secretary-General Renato Reyes said. "Bakit inabandona yun at nagkaroon ng compromise para lang ma-accommodate yung iba't-ibang business interests? Kasi kung gobyerno ang gagastos at may mga karagdagang gastos ito, gusto nating malaman bilang mga taxpayers."

[Translation: Why wasn't the original design acceptable considering NEDA (National Economic Development Authority) approved it? Why was that abandoned and why was there a compromise just to accommodate various business interests? If the government will spend and spend more money on this, we want to know why as taxpayers.]

Seven years in the making

The common station project started in 2009 when the Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA) signed a deal with SMPHI to have the station built near SM North EDSA. It was put on hold the same year due to legal issues.

However, in 2014, the then-Department of Transportation and Communications decided to build the common station near TriNoma to cut costs. SMPHI took the matter to the Supreme Court, which issued a TRO in favor of SMPHI to stop the construction of the common station near TriNoma.

After seven years, the concerned stakeholders, including SM's Tessie SyCoson and Hans Sy, Ayala's Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, San Miguel's Ramon Ang and Metro Pacific's Manny Pangilinan agreed that a unified station was necessary to make commuting more convenient to the public.

CNN Philippines' Correspondent Menchu Macapagal and Digital Producer VJ Bacungan contributed to this report.