MANILA, Philippines — Light Rail Manila Corp. (LRMC) plans to commence actual construction works for the extension of the existing Light Rail Transit Line 1 (LRT-1) by the middle of the year.

“We want the actual construction to start if we can, by the middle of this year. If we can do it quicker, if issues are solved faster, we’ll do it quicker,” LRMC president and chief executive officer Juan Alfonso told reporters yesterday on the sidelines of the presentation of a study on profiles and preferences of LRT-1 passengers.

He said there are issues which are still being ironed out before actual construction could begin.

“It’s more than just the right of way. It’s really clearing the path for the actual construction because sometimes, they say the right of way is completed but actual structures have to be completed and moved, whether it’s residents or utility lines or sometimes, alignments,” Alfonso said.

He said LRMC is optimistic the issues would be resolved soon.

“We are now entering the detailed design phase with our EPC (engineering, procurement, construction) contractor,” he said.

LRMC earlier signed the EPC contract with French firms Bouygues Travaux Publics and Alstom Transport for the construction of the LRT-1 Cavite extension.

The consortium composed of Metro Pacific Investments Corp.’s Metro Pacific Light Rail Corp., Ayala Corp.’s AC Infrastructure Holdings Corp., and Macquarie Infrastructure Holdings (Philippines) PTE Ltd., broke ground on the P65 billion LRT-1 Cavite extension in May last year.

It bagged the contract to operate, maintain and extend the train line until Cavite, under the public-private partnership program during the previous administration.

In September 2015, it took over the operations of the train line which currently covers Roosevelt station in Quezon City until Baclaran station in Pasay City.

LRT-1’s extension would cover eight new stations such as Aseana, MIA, Asia World, Ninoy Aquino and Dr. Santos Stations in Parañaque City, Las Piñas and Zapote Stations in Las Piñas City and Niog Station in Bacoor, Cavite.

Alfonso said LRMC is planning to increase the trains’ speed to 60 kilometers per hour (kph) from the current 40 kph, to have more trips and enable faster commute for passengers.

“We feel if the system is more efficient then, people will use it more. It’s going to drive itself,” he said.

“We’re trying to improve infrastructure that goes along per station with the trains. So, that will improve the customer experience as well and hopefully drive traffic more,” he said.