THE management of the country’s first mass transport system on Thursday said it is fully prepared for the heavy turnout of passengers on Saturday as thousands of devotees are expected to take part in this year’s Feast Day of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo, Manila.

“We are prepared to field 24 trains with two spares to service the devotees and their regular passengers,” said Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA) Administrator Melquaides Robles said.

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“Normally we only field 18 trains during Saturdays, but since ridership is normally high during the feast day celebration, we will be deploying more trains. We are also very flexible, we may add more trains if we see that 24 trains would not be enough,” he added.

Robles also assured the safety of all the passengers, saying that the security for both Light Rail Transit Line 1 (Baclaran-Munomento) and Line 2 (Recto-Santolan) will remain tight.

He said security personnel will continue to implement the “no inspection, not entry” policy in all LRT stations.

“Additional security personnel with K9 dogs, will be deployed in all Line 1 and Line 2 stations, which will be augmented with personnel from the PNP’s Regional Mobile Group,” Robles said.

Last year, the LRTA also announced they have acquired X-ray machines to expedite their way of checking the baggage of passengers.

The machines will be similar to those installed in the country’s airports.

The LRTA chief said the x-ray machines will be put up, initially, on the Santolan and Monumento stations, which are usually packed with people.

Aside from the security personnel, the LRTA will also deploy medical and public assistance personnel and additional tellers at the UN Avenue, Central, Carriedo, D. Jose, and Recto stations to accommodate the expected surge in passenger volume.

As with last year’s celebration, the LRTA will still allow barefoot passengers to board its trains in deference to the customary celebration of the Black Nazarene Day.

“We saw that it was very effective in drawing more passengers to use the LRT, that is why we will continue to allow them to board the train this year, Robles said.

On the other hand, the LRTA is looking forward in breaking last year’s record of 582,989 passengers for Line 1 as well as the combined ridership of 785,674 for both lines.

Every 9th of January, thousands of devotees from all walks of life come to the church of Quiapo to take part in the procession as a way of strengthening their faith or fulfilling their vow or “panata.”

The program for this year’s feast day revelry will involve the image of the Black Nazarene being brought to the Quirino Grandstand in Manila today (Friday), the eve of the feast.

Activities at the Quirino Grandstand will start this afternoon, including a parade and healing service.

On Saturday, activities start at 3 a.m. with a Holy Hour, a concelebrated Mass at 6 a.m., and the start of the procession to Quiapo at 7:30 a.m. (AH/Sunnex)