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Philippines announces digital upgrade of its light rail train system


One of Metro Manila’s oldest mass railway transits has received a major digital upgrade amid stronger initiatives to boost transportation in Metro Manila during the COVID-19 pandemic. In a press release, the Light Rail Manila Corporation (LRMC), the private operator of the Light Rail Transit (LRT) Line 1, has announced that it has signed a partnership with the Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA) to share the ikotMNL mobile app for the benefit of train commuters.  

The ikotMNL is an application used to ensure seamless tracking of transportation systems.  It was launched by the LRMC late last year to assist commuters. It is also used by tourists looking for places to visit in the Philippines. Users may download the app on iOS and Android devices.  

This year, ikotMNL released additional features, namely contract tracing through Bluetooth technology and integration with another ride-hailing app. The additional features were aimed at improving trip planning and the overall commute experience of passengers within the LRT. 

Through the app, users will be able to monitor real-time information regarding the LRT-1 and track the schedules of train arrivals and departures. The application also enables crowd monitoring and customer support. 

The agreement provides that the LRMC shall develop and integrate into the app pertinent information about the LRT-2 which, the agency said, will be available in the first quarter of 2021. The LRMC will also provide all equipment needed for data gathering and would endorse all customer feedback to the LRTA. 

LRMC emphasised the LRTA will allow LRMC to be a non-exclusive partner in providing LRT-2 information; assign a point person to oversee programme on their side for operations and maintenance of hardware and system in coordination with LRMC; comply with the training guidelines and app user roles to ensure accuracy and reliability of data for LRT-2, and promote the use of the app. 

Integrated data and seamless travel 

Juan Alfonso, LRMC President and Chief Executive Officer, expressed high hopes that the partnership would evolve to more than just ensuring a safe trip for commuters. The ultimate vision is to achieve overall integrated mobility in transportation.

The LRTA echoed the positive sentiment of LRMC, stressing that with the real-time data and contract tracing features of the app, passengers can enjoy a safe and improved quality of travel within Metro Manila. 

The digital upgrade comes on the heels of an announcement by the LRTA that the LRT-2 system will resume full operations by January 2021, nearly a year after three of its stations, those in Santolan, Katipunan and Anonas were closed after a fire broke out and damaged parts of railway tracks. LRTA authorities made plans to open the Santolan station in Marikina by June. This was moved to September and further delayed until next year due to restrictions brought by the pandemic. 

The Philippines has been scaling up operations in many government agencies despite a slowdown in operations in the earlier part of 2020 because of the pandemic. It has made big strides in innovating government transactions in healthcare, tax, education, and more recently, in immigration. 

As reported by OpenGov Asia, the government has agreed to launch the Advance Passenger Information or API system which will require commercial carriers arriving and departing from the Philippines to give APIs of their passengers and crew members to immigration authorities. Through this advanced screening programme, authorities can intensify the enforcement of border control and other immigration protocols. Information gathered through this system can be shared and subsequently used to fortify regional and international security measures. 

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