Within three years, capital Manila will be crisscrossed by new railway systems that will speed up travel at vastly improved comfort to commuters based on ongoing projects and those in the pipeline of the Department of Transportation (DoTr).
Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade, during Thursday’s “Straight Talk with Daily Tribune” online forum listed the rail projects most of which are set to be completed before President Rodrigo Duterte steps down in 2022 while many others will have been started by that time.
These will be led by the P777.55-billion elevated rail project to link Tutuban initially with Malolos and, eventually, all the way to Clark, Pampanga or the North-South Commuter Rail.
The line will be elevated and built under the wings of the state-owned Philippine National Railways (PNR). Funding from the Asian Development Bank and the Japan International Cooperation Agency has been committed to it.
Tugade said the train system will run at a top 160 kilometers per hour (kph) compared to about 60 kph speed for an ordinary light rail transit (LRT) vehicle.
It will consist of 36 stations and a double-track elevated railway system that will connect the National Capital Region, Central Luzon and Calabarzon and enable seamless transfer of passengers with the Light Rail Transit Line 1 (LRT-1), LRT-2, the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT-3) and the Mega Manila Subway.
“Many will experience a lot of changes in the next two years, several will start this year,” Tugade said.
Scheduled for groundbreaking will be Metro Rail Transit 6 (MRT-6) which will connect to the LRT-1 from Baclaran to Dasmariñas, Cavite.
“We have embarked on a challenging route, so we are appealing for public support and a little patience and understanding,” he said.
“We will do our job. The President said ‘Department of Transportation, make the Filipino life comfortable.’ We will make the life of the Filipino comfortable by doing changes and improvements on the roads, on air, on rails and in maritime,” he added.
Transportation Undersecretary for Planning Reuben Reinoso said one of the unsolicited projects is a “Sky Train” proposed by conglomerate Megaworld that will be a cable train system from Guadalupe, Makati to EDSA and to Bonifacio Global City.
“It may even extend to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) based on the original proposal,” Reinoso said.
The project has already been awarded an “Original Proponent” status that qualifies it for a Swiss challenge before it is undertaken.
Also in the drawing board is a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system for Quezon Avenue from Philcoa up to Gilmore that will connect to the LRT-2 line. Cebu City will also have a BRT project, he said.
Another project is the proposed MRT-10 which will traverse Commonwealth Ave. to NAIA that has also received an original proponent status.
The long list of projects requires interoperability of train systems that the DoTr is now addressing, according to Tugade.
He explained the signaling is a problem, since they differ from one system to another.
“We have a plan for that. It will start from the setting up of a common station to make the trains interoperable,” he said.
“The common station will be one of the steps to achieve interoperability of the different lines. At the same time, we are also exploring the possibility that even with different signaling systems, there will be train units that can cross over. So, we are studying that,” Tugade added.
Undersecretary for railways Timothy John Batan said the priority now is the rehabilitation of MRT-3 that will be done in 26 months. This will include the upgrade of the signaling system of MRT-3.
“Currently, the signaling system of MRT-3 is obsolete. So, that will be a hindrance to interoperability given its current state,” Batan said. “The purpose of signaling is essentially to prevent collision. So, the trains need to communicate within their lines.”
Rehab to speed up travel
On 8 November last year, an P18-billion loan agreement between the Philippines and Japan for the rehabilitation of MRT-3 was signed.
The loan agreement covers the repair and maintenance of the rail system’s electromechanical components, power supply, rail tracks and depot equipment and the overhaul of its 72 light rail vehicles.
Sumitomo-Mitsubishi Heavy Industries will take over the rehabilitation and maintenance of MRT-3. The consortium signed and built the railway system from 1998 to 2000 and maintained the system from 2000 to 2012.
The MRT had also deployed the initial set of trains that were purchased from Chinese firm CRRC Dalian.
The first train set which consists of three cars was deployed last October while another train set was deployed in December.
A total of 48 Dalian light rail vehicles were delivered to the country in 2016 but were not used on the MRT-3 line due to compatibility issues. Supplier CCRC Dalian eventually agreed to absorb the costs for the adjustments of the trains.
The Dalian trains are undergoing the 1,000-kilometer test run for 150 hours before these are used during peak hours of the MRT-3’s operations, according to the DoTr.
Unloading incidents in the railway system have declined to 56 from January to November 2018 compared to the 440 and 562 recorded for the same period in 2017 and 2016, respectively.
The MRT management attributed this to the ongoing maintenance works on the rail system and the delivery of vital spare parts.
The MRT-3 currently runs an average of 15 trains daily with headway time of seven minutes serving around 300,000 passengers.
Tugade shared construction for the Metro Manila Subway is slated to begin next year and will be partially operational by 2022.
The subway system aims to operate in three stations: North Avenue, Mindanao Avenue and Tandang Sora, with full operations implemented by 2025.