DOTr: San Miguel to submit new design for MRT-7 station in Quezon Memorial Circle

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San Miguel Corporation is set to submit a revised design for the MRT-7 station at the Quezon Memorial Circle next week, the Transportation Department says, after local authorities stopped construction on site. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 20) — A planned train station at the Quezon Memorial Circle would be redesigned by contractors after local authorities halted its construction amid issues on its location and design, the Department of Transportation said.

DOTr Undesecretary for Rails Timothy John Batan said in a media interview that the Quezon Memorial Circle Station of the Metro Rail Transit line 7 (MRT-7) would be revamped upon the request of the Quezon City government.

"On February 28, magpe-present ng proposal si San Miguel and the Quezon City local government is looking forward to the proposal. Ang assurance na naibigay is we will work together in coming up with a mutually acceptable design," Batan said on Wednesday.

Mayor Joy Belmonte on Monday suspended the construction of the Quezon Memorial Circle station through a temporary cease and desist order covering SMC, its contractor EEI Corporation, and the DOTr. She cited environmentalists and historians in saying that the current look of the station would "affect the landmark's identity as a national heritage park."

Batan explained that authorities are now working on a new design for the portion of the train station which was above ground, but clarified that underground works as well as construction in other MRT-7 stations can proceed.

READ: San Miguel says up to DOTr, Quezon City gov't to settle issues on MRT-7 station

He said the original blueprint of the MRT-7 had to be tweaked to keep up with a "substantial" increase in the expected number of riders of the railway. He said initial designs were drafted and approved in 2008, but were updated by the private builder when it took over the project in 2016.

Belmonte also questioned why the contractor exceeded the original 2,457 square-meter (sq.m.) floor area above ground — which was not the main train concourse — to now cover 10, 791 sq.m.

"Noong 2008, 'yung expected na ridership is very different doon sa updated ridership forecasts. Ayaw naman natin na magtayo ng isang linya na alam nating kulang 'yung kapasidad. Nagkaroon ng ilang pagbabago kumpara sa assumptions noong 2008," the DOTr official said, adding that the size of the train station had to be updated to match demand conditions eight years later.

[Translation: In 2008, the expected ridership was very different from the updated ridership forecasts. We don't want to build a train line which is inadequate. There have been changes compared to the 2008 assumptions.]

A copy of the ground floor plans showed a drastic expansion in the structures to be built under the new one submitted by EEI, which now had open spaces for "passenger support."

Most train stations allot spaces for commercial leases for food stalls and retail shops.

Batan said the biggest concern of the Quezon City government is the height of the structure, which would affect the view of the Quezon City monument. He added that the train station was also expanded for higher capacity, as authorities now expect to accommodate 800,000 passengers in the next 25 years, up from 300,000 a decade ago. This would entail additional project costs.

"It's intuitive naman. We're building a bigger system to accommodate more passengers. You really need to increase the investment," Batan said in an interview.

Once completed, the MRT-7 would link North Avenue to San Jose del Monte in Bulacan via Commonwealth Avenue through 14 stations. Authorities expect the ₱70.8-billion train line to serve 850,000 passengers, while cutting travel time to just 35 minutes end-to-end.

DOTr wanted to start partial train services by 2021, but this target could be at risk with changes in the station's design.

Secretary Ernesto Pernia of the National Economic and Development Authority — which handles the government's big-ticket infrastructure projects — said the project may need to go through the approval process should there be "major changes" in the design and project costs. Batan said the DOTr is ready to go through this again, saying this was "the cost of project delay."

For now, Batan said the MRT-7 remains on track with construction more than halfway done as of end-January. The 104 train coaches for the railway line have also been bought and are ready to ship from South Korea.