LRT1 operator eyes P5 to P7-fare hike

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The operator of Light Rail Transit Line 1 (LRT1) is eyeing a fare hike ranging from P5 to P7.

Light Rail Manila Corporation (LRMC) Chief Executive Officer Juan Alfonso said in a media briefing on Tuesday, May 22, that the hike is "overdue," as fares were last increased in 2015.

 If approved, the hike will be rolled out by August 2018.

"I think one thing we are banking on [is] fare adjustment [which] will allow us to continue giving good service to our commuters," Alfonso said.

"NEDA said inflation is 4% above but we haven't increased fares since 2015. We feel that the increase is very reasonable right now," he added in a mix of English and Filipino.

Alfonso said LRMC had spent P8 billion for system restoration and upgrading to ensure that LRT1 provides efficient services.

He said that based on LRMC's calculations, a reasonable fare increase would be from P5 to P7, accounting for average fare and distance traveled.

Currently, LRT1 fares range from P15 to P30. The increase would mean a 23% to 33% increase from the current fares.

If not approved, Alfonso said LRMC can ask the government to subsidize the fare or go through dispute resolution measures as stipulated under the concession agreement.

In 2016, LRMC filed a petition to increase fares by 10% but this was delayed by the government. Alfonso is positive that the fare hike will be approved this time around.

"We're trusting that the process based on the contract will be observed. All of our improvements have cost. And I think people are willing to pay for good service," he said.

Senator Grace Poe, Senate committee on public services chair, asked LRMC to “further delay” or implement instead a “staggered” fare increase to soften the impact of the newly-implemented tax reform law on poor commuters. 

“This could be considered while the discussions on suspending some portions of the TRAIN law are ongoing,” Poe said in a statement on Tuesday, May 23.

Cavite extension

The LRT1 operator said that the LRMC and the Department of Transportation have been meeting regularly on the Cavite extension project.

Alfonso said that once right-of-way acquisitions have been completed, the extension project would begin by the end of 2018. In some areas, clearing operations had already started, he said.

LRMC is a joint venture company of Metro Pacific Investments Corporation’s Metro Pacific Light Rail Corporation (MPLRC), Ayala Corporation’s AC Infrastructure Holdings Corporation (AC Infra), and the Philippine Investment Alliance for Infrastructure’s Macquarie Infrastructure Holdings (Philippines) PTE Ltd. (MIHPL).

LRMC had signed with the DOTr and the Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA) a 32-year concession agreement for the P65-billion LRT1 Cavite Extension Project, and the operations and maintenance of LRT1.

LRMC's directive is to rehabilitate the 20 stations and train cars of LRT1 in 18 months and extend the line from Baclaran to Bacoor, Cavite. The group aims to fully operate the extended line by 2021.

Since LRMC took over, improvements in the LRT1 allowed for a headway of 3.5 minutes every after train. As of March 2018, 9 light rail vehicles have been restored. (LOOK: The newly-renovated LRT1 Doroteo Jose Station)

Compared to other railway systems, LRT1 has the most number of trains at 29, with an average of 500,000 riders during weekdays . The extension project is seen to bring in more passengers – with an expected 700,000 to 800,000 riders daily.– Rappler.com

Aika Rey

Aika Rey covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler. Before writing about politicians, she covered budget, labor, and transportation issues.

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