Conglomerate San Miguel Corp. (SMC) is keeping its 2019 completion target for the massive Metro Rail Transit Line 7, despite right-of-way issues that typically delay big-ticket infrastructure projects.

The train line, backed by SMC, will link North Avenue, Quezon City to San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan via a 22-kilometer elevated railway that is expected to serve initially 500,000 riders per day.

During an inspection of MRT-7’s progress yesterday, Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade said he had received assurances from SMC that the railway line would be finished by the “last quarter of 2019,” assuming there were no issues with the right-of-way delivery, which was the government’s responsibility.

“Physically it can be done if all the issues of right of way are [resolved],” EEI Corp. president and CEO Roberto Castillo said.
The Hyundai Rotem-EEI group was tapped to build the project.

The MRT-7, estimated to cost about $1.54 billion (P78 billion), traces its development roots to 2005. SMC took control of the MRT-7 in 2010, but the project was stalled in view of the negotiations with the Aquino administration on certain financial guarantees. A groundbreaking event was eventually held in April 2016.

SMC will operate the MRT-7 under a 35-year concession agreement.

Apart from the railway line, SMC is also building a 22-km, six-lane highway that will link San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan to the Balagtas Interchange of the North Luzon Expressway, operated by a unit of Metro Pacific Investments Corp.

SMC is also building an intermodal transportation terminal where the MRT-7 ends in Bulacan, also by 2019. The terminal will be capable of handling some 200 buses at any given time.

The train line will have 14 stations, including a station in the Quezon City Memorial Circle, where Thursday’s inspection was held. Other stations will be built in University Avenue, Tandang Sora, Don Antonio, Batasan, Doña Carmen, Regalado, Mindanao Avenue, Quirino, Sacred Heart, and Tala.

In North Avenue, the MRT-7 will connect with the existing Light Rail Transit Line 1 and the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 through the Unified Common Station project, which will start this year for completion by April 2019. The two other railway lines handle about one million passengers per day.

n a previous interview, SMC president Ramon S. Ang said the MRT-7 would cut the usual two-hour trip from Quezon City to Bulacan to 30 minutes.

Tugade yesterday said the construction of the MRT-7 columns along Doña Carmen and Regalado Streets in Quezon City will be finished by November this year, helping ease congestion in the area.

The DOTr also said it would provide support for the Quezon City local government unit and the National Housing Authority in relocating informal settlers occupying land along the MRT-7’s alignment.

By: Miguel R. Camus