With questioning eyes, his left eyebrow raised and mouth almost agape, Mark de Castro, a 23-year-old call-center agent, could only reply with disbelief, when he learned from the BusinessMirror that the new Dalian trains will be deployed next month. “It’s about time; but I guess that’s good news,” he continued.
De Castro, who hails from Quezon City, is one of the 420,000 regular commuters of the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT 3) who stand to benefit from the 48 new trains to be deployed in March.
MRT 3 General Manager Deo Leo N. Manalo said his office is eager to deploy the new trains, all of which have been delivered by Locomotive and Rolling Stocks of China.
“We have received all of the 48 trains from Dalian. We are ready to deploy them next month,” he told the BusinessMirror via phone. “We are just waiting for the safety certification from Bombardier.”
The German company was subcontracted by Dalian to provide the onboard signaling system for the new trains.
“We also have to do a 1,500-kilometer test with the new signaling system,” Manalo said.
The Aquino administration jump-started the acquisition of 48 new train cars for the Edsa line. It faced several years of delay due to a legal tussle with the owner of the infrastructure.
Despite having received the first set of trains in early-2016, the deployment of the new coaches was deferred because all 48 light-rail vehicles had to be “optimized and tested”.
“During that time, the signaling was expected to be installed immediately.
But they did not anticipate changes,” Manalo explained.
The onboard signaling system was only installed in the trains in November last year. The initial batch of trains should have been deployed in March last year.
“The process of installation and testing is really long because the system is an integrator,” he noted. “There were also issues raised by consultants and suppliers. Each train is unique; the solution for one system is not applicable to all trains.”
The management, likewise, had to “test the system for reliability and compliance, while, at the same time, training our people to be familiar to the new system”.
MRT Holdings Inc. (MRTH) initially blocked the procurement of the new trains, saying it is an “unpropitious train-supply contract”. The whole expansion project, amounting to P3.8 billion, will increase the capacity of the line to 880,000 daily passengers, or 66 percent more than the current capacity of 350,000 commuters per day.
Currently, the train line is working at half its capacity. There are about 19 train sets operating at the MRT. This means that of the 73 light-rail vehicles that the train line has on its depot, only 57 train cars ply the North Edsa-Taft Avenue train route.
Robert John L. Sobrepeña, who chairs MRTH, said that, while his group welcomes this development, the government must ensure that all tests have been done
properly and completely.
“If they get it to run safely—that it’s complete and safe—then that’s good news,” he told the BusinessMirror.
With this development, Manalo said commuters, like de Castro, can expect relief from jam-packed train rides and stressful commute. “I just hope this will not be temporary, and be sustainable for a change,” de Castro said.
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