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Cost, delivery key to choice of MRT-3 train cars

Cai U. Ordinario

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Second hand train cars from Spain are cheaper and can be delivered faster, but may have maintenance issues when operated in parallel with the current fleet of Czech-made train cars

MORE TRAINS. The national government is still open to purchasing second hand trains to address the serious lack of MRT 3 coaches. Photo by Cai Ordinario

MANILA, Philippines – Of the two choices on the additional train cars to acquire to ease congestion at the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) Line 3 — 2nd hand cars from Spain or brand new from Czech Republic — the government is taking into account cost issues and timing of delivery.

According to Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya, the serious lack of coaches now is making the purchase of 2nd hand train cars stand out in their decision making.   

“We’re mindful of the kilometric lines in MRT-3,” he said in an interview with reporters on April 25.

The MRT-3 lacks 70 coaches. The bidding process for the first batch of 48 has been delayed.  

Abaya said the government can do a combination of brand new and second hand trains to close the gap and serve millions of commuters in the National Capital Region. 

Abaya shared that 2nd hand trains are cheaper and they can be delivered sooner. 

“Our initial plan was really to buy new coaches [from Czech Republic]. These are 48 brand new coaches. However, we saw a quicker fix to this. The Metro de Madrid rail system [of Spain] offered us 2nd hand trains so immediately we dispatched a team to see if these trains will run and will be compatible and if its safe enough for our system,” Abaya said. 

“It looks like its viable, it’s gonna be cheaper, delivery will be quicker. We’re addressing safety issue to ensure the safety and convenience of our passengers. 

The current MRT-3 fleet uses 73 Czech-made trains.

Both 1st and 2nd hand cars

Abaya said that another option the government is mulling is combining both 1st and 2nd hand cars. 

“It [running both in parallel] remains as an option. If we go second hand train, it doesn’t necessarily mean we’re foregoing the new trains, we are running it in parallel, its moving along. These are not motorcycles we could buy in cash and take home the next day,” he added. 

The DOTC Chief said 2nd hand trains from Metro de Madrid from Spain could cost around $800,000 to $900,000 per coach, while a brand new one from Czech Republic would cost $3 million.

He added that the 2nd hand trains can also be delivered to the country in 9 to 10 months, while the 1st hand cars from Czech needs 1.5 years to 2 years just for manufacture of the prototype in Czech to be completed. 

“If we wanted, we could buy all 2nd hand trains but we are mindful there are maintenance issues,” Abaya said, noting that running both types of cars in parallel may mean maintenance and rehabilitation issues down the road. “We’re considering everything.”  


The different facets of the decision has delayed the bidding for 48 new coaches. The initial bidding period for the trains was slated for April 30 but the DOTC moved it to May 30.

Abaya said the bidding was moved to give the DOTC more time to refine the Terms of Referrence (TOR) because they received comments that the initial TOR was “too inclined for one specific bidder.”

He added that the DOTC was also looking at the unit price since there have been comments that the unit price that the government is looking at cannot be delivered. 

The new train coaches are expected to improve the service to and provide comfort to passengers taking one of the key modes of transport in the capital. The rail system stretches 16.9-kilometers from North Ave. in Quezon City to Taft Ave. in Pasay. 

Almost 600,000 passengers take the MRT-3, far more than its load limit of 350,000 daily. The 48 new trains will help expand the system to 4-car trains that would arrive every 2.5 minutes. – Rappler.com

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