New low: Zero trains, power failure for 230,000 MRT3 riders

MANILA, Philippines – Commuters experienced a new low for the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT3), as the week opened without a train running for its almost quarter of a million commuters.

From 8 working trains the week before, the week of February 19 opened without a train running at 5:30 am. MRT3 operations were delayed by 1 1/2 hours due to a power failure on Monday, February 19. (READ: Down to 8 trains: How the MRT3 packs 260,000 commuters daily

Another power glitch stalled operations on Monday afternoon, interrupting service for about 2 hours. Ridership dropped to 207,000 passengers on that day, with 7 running trains on average.

As MRT3 glitches became a regular headline, less commuters have been using the railway system. By the end of the week, it went down to an average of 230,000 passengers per day – less than half of the daily average of 463,000 passengers in 2017.

Week of breakdown

The MRT3 management recorded 11 breakdowns since February 1 – a total of 38 breakdowns since 2018 started. (READ: MRT3 suffers almost daily breakdowns since start of 2018)

On Monday, February 19, two power glitches affected the train system, delaying operations in the morning and limiting operations from Taft to Shaw Boulevard stations in the afternoon. 

Tuesday, February 20 was no different from Monday. Around 1,000 passengers walk along the tracks of the MRT3 in the middle of the southbound section of Ortigas and Shaw Boulevard stations.

On Wednesday, February 21, another electrical failure happened in Guadalupe Station, unloading 900 passengers as the train experienced failure in its motor and panels, and a defective air-conditioning unit.

On Thursday, February 22, the technical team was able to rehabilitate more train cars. Nine trains were available when the day ended.

 

As MRT ridership dwindled, the DOTr deployed point-to-point buses to help augment its operations. (READ: Surviving MRT3: Worst train fails in 2017)

Based on DOTr records, an average of 3,700 passengers per day were served by the bus augmentation service since February 1. The buses pick up passengers from North Avenue Station and stops only at either Ortigas and Ayala Stations on weekdays.

Repair

In a Senate hearing on the MRT3 on February 20, Transportation Undersecretary Timothy John Batan said that 10 trains should be operational per day by the end of March.

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.

The MRT3 railway system will undergo full rehabilitation between March 28 and 31. Batan also said that 15 trains should be up and running by April.

In January, German-based TUV Rheinland was tapped to evaluate the unused 48 trains delivered by China-based CRRC Dalian Company Limited.

The Dalian trains remain unused because it violated the specifications by the Department of Transportation, having a gross weight heavier than the contract required. An expert during the Senate hearing said, however, that the trains are not "overweight."

Should the Dalian trains be cleared by TUV Rheinland, Batan said during on Tuesday that the government can use the trains immediately.

In 2017, there were 516 MRT3 glitches recorded – almost 10 incidents a week. (READ: MRT woes: How often do they happen?)

The MRT3 spans 16.9 kilometers, with 13 stations from North Avenue in Quezon City to Taft Avenue in Pasay City.– 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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