17 January 2012

About Time to Privatize MRT

Business tycoon Manuel V. Pangilinan has made an offer to the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) to invest between PhP 4.5 billion to PhP 8 billion for the purchase of brand-new trains and rehabilitate the facilities of the EDSA-based Metro Rail Transit (MRT).

It is about time that the public transport system gets the support to overhaul the depreciating capacity of the MRT. It was estimated that the daily capacity of the MRT line is about 360,000 passengers but it is currently serving a ridership of 488,000 passengers a day.

DOTC sources said Pangilinan made the "unofficial offer" to pour much needed funds and then assume the operation and management of the rail line over a 25-year period, and that this was given initial consideration by the department.

Included in the proposed investment are the procurement of rolling stock or light rail vehicles (LRVs) or trains, the upgrade of the signalling and other systems of the line, operational expenses, and the payment of the necessary government fees.

In exchange for the investment, Pangilinan's Group, most likely under listed infrastructure and real estate asset holding company Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC), upon takeover of the rail line, will set a fare rate of about PhP 28 a passenger.

"Under the proposal, there will be a charge of PhP 28 per passenger. It will be implemented on a staggered basis over a period of 25 years," the source said.

DOTC Secretary Manuel Roxas II earlier said that the department was planning to set aside PhP 6 billion from the PhP 72-billion stimulus fund set up by the Aquino administration to fund the upgrade and rehabilitation of the MRT's light rail vehicles or train coaches, which he said was getting tremendous wear-and-tear from the daily overcapacity ridership.

"The trains are battered every day," Roxas said.

In order to decongest the trains, they are planning to acquire new LRVs or the coaches which will greatly address the daily breakdown and service interruption problems at the MRT.

"We're studying the purchase of LRVs. MRT's design capacity is only for 360,000 passengers a day, but its actual load is at 488,000 passengers, so it's really overloaded. That's why there's a breakdown almost every day," Roxas said.

Collectively, the MRT and LRT 1 line (from Caloocan to EDSA through Taft Ave.) and LRT 2 (from Santolan to Recto) ferry around one million people daily.