Down to 8 trains: How the MRT3 packs 260,000 commuters daily

MANILA, Philippines – When the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT3) averaged 7 running trains, it served around 263,000 passengers to various destinations.

In the first two weeks of February, 267,000 passengers rode the MRT3 on average as 8 to 9 trains operate daily, based on MRT3 data sent daily to reporters.

The number is not promising. Back in 2017, the MRT3 has an average daily ridership of 463,000 from 20 operational trains.

The train system had 20 running trains daily until November 2017, but this was later adjusted to 15 to ensure the safety of passengers after anomalies with former maintenance provider Busan Universal Rail Incorporated's (BURI) performance.

From 15 working trains by the end of 2017, the MRT3 management now scrambles to maintain 10 trains at most to serve the commuting public daily.

But working trains are now down to 8. When the unthinkable happens, 260,000 commuters pack themselves into 6 or 7 trains daily.

February ridership

Less commuters have been using the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT3) as it suffered almost daily breakdowns since 2018 started.

On February 1, the month opened with 10 working trains at 6 am. By 8 am, it was down to 9. The MRT3 averaged 9 working trains that were able to serve 313,616 passengers that day, despite two glitches that unloaded some 1,800 passengers.

On February 2, the number of trains was down to 8. The MRT3 management was able to keep the same number of operating trains that day, servicing some 286,000 passengers.

On February 6, the train system opened with 7 running trains. The management was able to add another train by 8 am but it was back to 7 trains by 10 am. By 12 noon, 8 trains were up and running again but was down to 7 again in time for the rush hour at 6 pm. It served about 274,000 passengers that day.

On February 8, MRT3 had 6 running trains by 6 am but was later increased to 8 by 7 am. After a glitch involving electrical failure at 10:37 am, the number of operational trains was at 7. The day averaged 8 running trains servicing 278,000 passengers.

On February 12, the MRT3 had only 7 running trains the entire Monday. Ridership was down close to 259,000.

On February 13, it opened with 8 trains at 6 am but went down to 7 at 2 pm. It averaged 7 trains again that day, servicing 263,000 passengers.

On February 14, MRT3 was able to keep 8 trains running the entire day. Ridership was up to 286,000.

The table below shows the daily ridership of the MRT3 vis-a-vis the average number of trains running that day:

 

As less trains become available in the MRT3, the DOTr deployed point-to-point buses to help augment its operations. (READ: Surviving MRT3: Worst train fails in 2017)

According to the DOTr, 28,825 passengers were served from February 1 to February 13 during the morning rush hour. The buses pick up passengers from North Avenue Station that stops only at either Ortigas and Ayala Stations.

Deteriorating

In a DzRH interview on Thursday, February 15, Transportation Undersecretary TJ Batan acknowledged the worsening problem of the MRT3.

"The condition of the MRT3 is really bad right now. In the past two weeks, we average only 8 to 9 working trains per day. We should have 20 trains per day instead of 8, making the availability of trains really low," Batan said in Filipino.

He attributed the problem to lack of spare parts that can be used to replace the worn-out parts of the 18-year-old train system and the need for a general rehabilitation of trains which should be done every 8 years.

"We found out when we did an inventory after we took over in November 6, 2017, that the spare parts left by the former maintenance provider Busan Universal Rail Incorporated (BURI) was not in the right condition needed. This is one of the primary reasons why the number of available trains went down," Batan said.

A portion of the spare parts needed to rehabilitate the trains arrived on Tuesday, February 13.

Batan added that the last general overhaul of MRT3 trains were done in 2007 and 2008. The next general rehabilitation should have been done in 2016 but BURI was able to only overhaul 3 trains when the DOTr terminated its contract.

Since 2018 started, the MRT3 suffered a total of 34 glitches – 22 of which involved electrical failure in the train's motor. (READ: MRT3 suffers almost daily breakdowns since start of 2018)

On February 1, a system audit by engineers from Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has already started. JICA is expected to determine all restoration works needed for the train system.

In January, German-based TUV Rheinland was tapped to evaluate the unused MRT3 trains delivered by China-based CRRC Dalian Company Limited.

The MRT3 management is expected to conduct full rehabilitation of its trains from March 28 to 31, promising the public better services after. – Rappler.com

Aika Rey

Aika Rey covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler. Before writing about politicians, she covered budget, labor, and transportation issues.

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