MRT3 delivers on its promise of more trains

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Shorter lines and less waiting time.

The Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT3) resumed operations on Monday, April 2, after its 5-day general maintenance services during the Holy Week, with a target of being able to field 15 trains afterwards.

According to the Department of Transportation (DOTr), a total of 47 light rail vehicles or 15 train sets and two spare cars were repaired and restored during the maintenance period.

The MRT3 maintenance team also did works on the building facilities, railway tracks, and the power system of the train system. (READ: LOOK: MRT3 begins general maintenance of trains)

At 2:10 pm on Monday, the MRT3 delivered on its promise of 15 trains with a headway of only 6 minutes. The last time the MRT3 was able to run with 15 trains was on January 5, 2018.

But the MRT3 fared even better this week, fielding 16 trains at 7:24 pm on Thursday, April 5. It was in December 2017 when the riding public last experienced having as many trains to ride.

With the improvement, the MRT3 was able to serve close to 315,000 passengers on average this week, with Friday, April 6, having the most passengers served – about 385,000.

Up next: 20 trains

According to DOTr Undersecretary for Railways Timothy John Batan, the MRT3's next goal is to run on 20 trains.

But Batan acknowledged that more trains mean more people will come to use the railway service.

"Our next target is to increase the availability to 20 trains when the new rehabilitation and maintenance service provider comes in. But we expect that the more we increase capacity, the more people will come," he said.

According to Batan, the MRT3 can serve as many as 405,000 passengers per day if it runs on 15 trains with a 3-car configuration. 

"To finally address queues, we need to achieve our later targets of 20 trains of 4-car configuration, which can carry 720,000 passengers per day, and eventually 25 trains with 4 cars each set, which can carry 900,000 passengers per day. However, the path and timing towards these targets will depend on the outcome of the TUV Rheinland audit of the Dalian trains," he added.

The assessment by German firm TUV Rheinland of the "overweight" 48 trains delivered by China-based CRRC Dalian Company Limited was initially due on March 10.

The DOTr said the assessment has yet to be completed and will be expected to be done this April.

System audit

Meanwhile, the DOTr received on Wednesday, April 4 the final report on the system audit of the MRT3 by engineers from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

In a message to reporters on Friday, the DOTr said rehabilitation work that's needed to restore the MRT3 to its original design condition would take two years and two months. Estimate project cost will be completed by mid-April.

By May, a new maintenance service provider is expected to come in.

The number of trains was drastically decreased after the MRT3 Maintenance Transition Team took over, as trains and spare parts left by the former maintenance provider Busan Universal Rail Incorporated (BURI) were not in the right condition, the DOTr earlier said.

Last February, the number of trains was reduced to as few as 6.

Since 2018 started, there have been 50 breakdown incidents, 12 of which happened in March. (READ:Ahead of maintenance, MRT3 has more trains but more breakdowns 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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