Delivery of new MRT trains to ease congestion set for Feb 2015

MANILA, Philippines – Tired of the long lines at the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT 3)? Passengers will have to wait for the solution until 2015. 

During the Senate Finance committee hearing Monday, April 7, MRT General Manager Al Vitangcol III said the first batch of additional MRT 3 trains are expected to be delivered in February 2015 after much delays in the expansion project. 

The Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) bid out a P3.769-billion project that involves the procurement of 48 carriages aimed at easing passenger congestion. 

At present, MRT 3 carries up to 560,000 passengers a day, way above its design capacity of 320,000. 

Two weeks ago, the MRT-3 was plagued with complaints from passengers who had to line up for up to two hours to board trains. 

Vitangcol said the long queus are already being addressed.

He said the long lines were the result of a system-wide evaluation of facilities – including the train signalling system, which required MRT 3 to reduce the speed of its trains. 

"When we determined that the system is good and safe for usual travel, then we returned to the normal speed and increased the number of trains running," Vitangcol said.

"If they can see the stations now, the long lines (like those of two weeks ago) are gone and the lines are now minimal. But the solution is really to have additional trains," he added. 

No short-term solution

DOTC had considered leasing trains from other countries as a stop-gap measure. 

But DOTC Undersecretary Rene Limcaoco said the designs of second-hand trains were not compatible with MRT stations in the country. 

Until the new trains are delivered, Escudero said DOTC has no short-term solution.

"Hanggang hindi pa dumarating yung bagong tren, walang mas magaan o mas mabilis na solsuyon para maibsan yung kasalukuyang problema ng ating mga kababayan kaugnay sa kakulangan ng capacity ng MRT," Escudero said. 

(As long as the new trains have not arrived, there is no easier or faster solution to solve the current problem of our countrymen regarding the lack of MRT capacity.)

Beginning February 2015, 3 new train carriages will be delivered each month as part of the 48-carriage expansion plan. 

The entire MRT 3 system can only accommodate 20 carriages at one time. At present, MRT 3 has 73 cars, with each train having 3 cars.

The expansion would allow MRT to accommodate up to 24 trains with 4 cars each. 

Complications within the ownership structure of MRT has delayed the planned developments. 

The government, through state-run banks, holds 80% economic interest in MRT 3. But it does not have much voting rights. A company, MRT Corporation (MRTC), owns 48% voting rights, equivalent to a 20% economic interest. 

The government is eyeing to buy out MRTC's private owners to have a free hand in deciding the MRT 3's operations. (READ: P56-B budget for MRT buyout ready)

"An equity buyout allows the government to clean up the entire structure," said DOTC Undersecretary Jose Perpetuo Lotilla. 

On the alleged extortion attempt

Vitangcol once again denied allegations made by Czech Ambassador to the Philippines Josef Rychtar that DOTC blacklisted Czech firm Inekon from the MRT 3 bidding after it refused to give a $30-million bribe. 

Asked to explain the allegations, Vitangcol said Inekon had wanted to claim intellectual property rights to the design of the customized MRT 3 trains, a position that the DOTC did not share. 

"They were pushing for a government to government deal, which the DOTC can't accept because we want the to go through public bidding, which the DOTC accomplished," Vitangcol said. 

In a separate media briefing, Malacañang raised doubts anew over the Czech ambassador's intention in reviving the issue. 

The National Bureau of Investigation has yet to conclude its probe on the extortion case. - Rappler.com