Expert says Dalian trains 'not overweight' for MRT3 tracks

MANILA, Philippines – A railway expert said on Tuesday, February 20, that the trains delivered by China-based CRRC Dalian Company Limited are "not overweight" for the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT3) tracks.

Rolf Bieri said in a Senate hearing on the MRT3 status that the trains are within the allowable limit that train tracks can carry. Bieri used to be a consultant for former MRT3 maintenance provider Comm Builders and Technology Philippines Corporation.

According to specifications, the MRT3 tracks can carry an axle load up to 10 tons. Citing his own calculations, Dalian trains weigh only up to 9.4 tons.

"We retain the limit required by the Department of Transportation (DOTr) for the axle load for the track. The axle load [of Dalian trains] is 9.4 tons but the track system is designed for 10 tons. So where is the problem for overload?" he said.

The DOTr earlier said the Dalian trains are above the total weight required by its contract. The DOTr specified that each train should weigh 46.4 tons but the trains delivered weigh 49.7 tons.

Bieri explained that the total capacity of each Dalian train, when fully loaded, should be around 75.2 tons. When divided by its 8 axles, the load of each axle should be around 9.4 tons – still within the allowable limit.

Tracks due for rehabilitation

Civil engineer Rene Santiago said Bieri's calculation is also valid but raised the current condition of the MRT3 tracks.

"He's just using the criteria of the axle load that there is still leeway for it to handle the gross weight of the train. But is that enough factor of safety considering that your tracks are not yet completed or rehabilitated?" Santiago said.

Transportation Undersecretary for Railways Timothy John Batan pointed out that the track system of the MRT3 is due for rehabilitation.

Germany-based TUV Rheinland was earlier tapped to evaluate the unused MRT3 trains. It will come out with its assessment by March. 

When asked whether the Dalian trains can be used if cleared by TUV Rheinland, Batan said the government can use these immediately.

"Assuming that it can be cleared without condition, if it's cleared without condition, we can use it right away," said Batan.

Violation

Meanwhile, Senator Grace Poe, chairperson of the Senate committee on public services, noted that the Chinese firm still violated the terms on the weight of the trains as stipulated in the P3.76-billion contract.

"So kung 'yung train na iyan ay papasa, aba 48 coaches iyan, maraming trains iyan... Aminin natin na malaki talaga ang problema dito kaya nga sabi ko nga hindi dahil sa paghihiganti, kundi dahil sa pag-ako ng responsibilidad," said Poe.

(If those trains will be cleared, then those are 48 trains – that's a lot of trains. Let's be honest that this is a huge problem – it's not about being vindictive, but accountability.)

The 48 Dalian trains were delivered in 2016 but remained unused due to compatibility issues. The new coaches were part of the MRT3 expansion project, which aimed to decongest the railway system and increase its capacity to serve over 800,000 passengers daily.

Since the start of 2018, the DOTr has recorded a total of 37 glitches. (READ: MRT3 suffers almost daily breakdowns since start of 2018)

Currently, there are only 7 to 8 working trains on average, down from the 20 trains in operation in 2017. (READ: Down to 8 trains: How the MRT3 packs 260,000 commuters daily– 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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