DOTr targets 15 operational MRT trains after Holy Week

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 20) — Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT-3) passengers can look forward to a less stressful commute by April, as the Transportation Department hopes for 15 trains be operational on the tracks.

At the Senate Committee on Public Services hearing on Tuesday, Transportation Undersecretary TJ Batan said there has been an average of only seven operational trains in February, which caters to about 1.1 million passengers daily.

"We would have spare parts arriving that would allow us to bring the number of trains back to 10 by the end of February…Ang target po natin is to get back to 15 after the three and a half days shut down that we do kapag Holy Week," Batan said.

This year, the Easter Sunday, which marks the end of the Holy Week, falls on April 1.

Batan said, however, this is still five trains short of the needed 20 trains during peak hours.

READ: Gov't signs deal to procure MRT-3 signaling system parts

He also said spare parts procured by the department mostly for the MRT signaling system has started to arrived.

Batan said the signaling system is among the leading causes of train breakdowns, and upgrading it costs P400 million.

"Meron pong mga components ang signaling system natin na hindi na OEM (original equipment manufacturer), yung iba po may modifications na hindi maintindihan kung paano ginawa. We really need to stock up on spare parts for signaling," Batan said, citing the system audit done by signaling system provider Bombardier.

[Translation: Our signaling system have components which are not OEM, and others even have modifications which Bombardier could not understand. We really need to stock up on spare parts for signaling.]

READ: DOTr: Canadian firm Bombardier to inspect MRT signaling systems by February

He added the department has signed contracts with Bombardier to supply needed spare parts and conduct maintenance and restoration services to the signaling systems, which may take up to six months.

The 17-kilometer train line runs the stretch of EDSA, from North Avenue in Quezon City up to Taft in Pasay.

The previous administration procured 48 light rail vehicles (LRVs) from China-based company CRRC Dalian worth P3.8 billion. The trains arrived in 2015, but these were not used as issues about weight and compatibility with the MRT-3 maintenance facilities and signaling system were raised.

READ: DOTr asks for understanding, cites maintenance lapses for fewer trains

Help on the way

Batan also revealed that the Philippine government had exchanged a note verbale with their Japanese counterparts on January 9 to address the MRT issues.

He said engineers from the Japan International Cooperation Agency have started conducting a system audit on February 1.

"150 engineers are coming in and out of the MRT-3 to assess everything that we need to fully restore the system to its designed capacity," Batan said, adding the engineers were mostly Filipinos.

He added after the audit report was submitted by March 15, they will finalize the terms of the official development assistance, then appoint a service provider.

In November 2017, the government announced that Japanese company Sumitomo Corporation and technical partner Mitsubishi Heavy Industries - which designed and built the MRT-3 and had maintained it from the start of operations in 2000 until 2012 - would return as the rail line's maintenance provider.

READ: BURI barred from joining MRT, LRT public bidding

On Nov. 6, 2017, the government took over the MRT's maintenance from Busan Universal Rail Inc. due to the company's alleged failure to operate the railway efficiently.

In 2017, the MRT-3 administration reported 504 glitches over 255 operation days or an average of two glitches per day.

Since January 2018, the train system has had at least 26 glitches, including passenger unloading and provisional service due to technical problems.