Macau’s first-ever railway to start today

2019-12-10 08:00     Comment:0

The Taipa section of the long-delayed Light Rail Transit (LRT), which also covers Cotai, will finally start service this afternoon, and passengers can take rides free of charge until December 31, the government-owned operator has announced.

According to a statement on Friday by the operator, officially named “Macao Light Rapid Transit Corporation, Limited” in English, Macau’s first-ever railway will be inaugurated this morning, and the first ride will depart from the Taipa Ferry Terminal station – the eastern terminus of the Taipa section – at 3:33 p.m.

During the three-week free-of-charge period, passengers need to obtain a one-way ticket from LRT staff at ticket gates to enter the paid area to take a ride, the statement said.

The statement said that the company will announce the LRT fare system in due course.

The government has indicated that the LRT fare system will be similar to the city’s public bus fare system – passengers will have to pay a full fare when using a ticket while they will have a discounted fare when using a stored-value LRT card. However, the government has also indicted that there will be a major difference between the two fare systems – the actual LRT fare will depend on the number of stations a passenger passes on a trip – which is different from the public bus fare system which charges a single fare irrespective of the number of bus stops during a passenger’s bus ride. The government has also said that the LRT fares will be a little bit higher than the public bus fares.

11 billion patacas spent

The government has spent 11 billion patacas on the LRT Taipa section project, including the construction, the rolling stock and the setting-up of the system.

The LRT was first proposed by the government in the early 2000s. However, the main construction – the Taipa section – only started in 2012.

Originally set to open in 2011

The LRT project, namely the first phase consisting of the Taipa section and a section along the east coast of the peninsula, was initially budgeted at 4.2 billion patacas in 2007, when the government expected it to come into service in late 2011.

The government announced its construction plan for the LRT first phase in 2009 with the budget rising to 7.5 billion patacas, when the government expected it to come into service in 2014. Construction of the LRT first phase was initially slated to get off the ground in 2010. However, construction only started in 2012 due to appeals by bidders against the outcome of the public tender for the project.

In 2014, the government expected the Taipa section of the LRT first phase – that is, not including the section along the peninsula’s east coast – to come into operation in 2016.

Secretary for Transport and Public Works Raimundo do Rosário, who took office in December 2014, told lawmakers in late 2015 that the government “provisionally” expected the LRT Taipa section to start operating in 2019. Since early this year, the government had repeatedly reaffirmed that the Taipa section will start operating before the 20th anniversary of Macau’s return to the motherland.

11 stations in Taipa/Cotai

The 9.3-kilometre-long Taipa section has 11 stations: 1) Ocean Station at Ocean Gardens, 2) Jockey Club Station outside the Macau Jockey Club (MJC), 3) Stadium Station outside Macau Stadium, 4) Pai Kok Station outside Galaxy Macau, 5) Cotai West Station outside the Venetian’s Cotai Expo, 6) Lotus Checkpoint Station outside the Lotus Flower border checkpoint, 7) East Asian Games Station outside the Macau East Asian Games Dome, 8) Cotai East Station outside Wynn Palace, 9) MUST Station outside the Macau University of Science and Technology (MUST), 10) Airport Station outside the airport, and 11) Taipa Ferry Terminal Station in Pac On.

Barra station in 2022/23

The government now aims for the LRT section connecting Taipa and Barra – via Sai Van Bridge – to be completed in 2022 or 2023. The ongoing Taipa-Barra LRT section project, including Barra station on the southernmost tip of the peninsula – is budgeted at 4.5 billion patacas. “Barra” is Portuguese for “harbour entrance”. The Chinese name of the station is Ma Kok – due to the nearby Ma Kok (A Ma) Temple.

The government is yet to invite bids for the construction of the 1.5-kilometre-long Seac Pai Van section, which will connect the still under-construction Cotai hospital – officially known as Cotai Healthcare Complex – and the Seac Pai Van public housing estate in Coloane. The station outside the Cotai hospital will have a footbridge connected to the Lotus Checkpoint station of the Taipa section for LRT passengers to walk between the two stations (to transfer between the Taipa section and Seac Pai Van section).

No final plan for peninsula

The government still does not have a final plan for the LRT project on the peninsula. The government has launched a study on the feasibility of building a sea-crossing LRT line connecting the peninsula’s Barrier Gate border checkpoint to the Taipa Ferry Terminal, via the land reclamation area known as Zone A – also known as the “East” section, which would be 7.8 kilometres long. Rosário, who was reappointed by the central government to the incoming local government early this month, has indicated that the government plans to build the “East” section first before finally going ahead with the LRT peninsula section project.

From 6:30 a.m. to 11:59 p.m.

According to Friday’s statement, the LRT Taipa section will operate from 6:30 a.m. to 11:15 p.m. from Mondays to Thursdays, and from 6:30 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. from Fridays to Sundays and on public holidays. Each train is expected to depart every five to 10 minutes.

According to a press invitation by the LRT company, the inauguration ceremony will take place at the LRT depot – which is located opposite Wynn Palace – at 11 a.m. today. Local Chinese-language newspaper Macao Daily News has reported that outgoing Chief Executive Fernando Chui Sai On will preside over the ceremony.

The government signed an 80-month contract with Hong Kong’s MTR Corporation in April last year for the latter to operate the LRT Taipa section for five years as well as to provide assistance in the run-up to the start of its operation.

The LRT project had been planned and supervised by the Transport Infrastructure Office (GIT) – a government “project team” established in 2007 – until it was replaced on October 1 by “Macao Light Rapid Transit Corporation, Limited”, a company fully owned by the government which was established earlier this year.

The government signed a 10-year agreement with Macao Light Rapid Transit Corporation, Limited in late September for the operation and maintenance of the LRT system.

The government has said that the aim is for the LRT company to learn and gain experience from the MTR before the former can fully take over the operation of the LRT system.

A Light Rail Transit (LRT) train travels past Galaxy in a test run yesterday. Photo: MPDG

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