MRT-3 new trains may not run efficiently – expert

Robertzon Ramirez (The Philippine Star) - January 28, 2016 - 9:00am

MANILA, Philippines – A train expert warned the public that 48 brand-new light rail vehicles (LRVs) purchased for the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT-3) might not run efficiently due to possible problems in the current power system of the train network.

The expert who refused to be identified claimed that the LRVs made by Dalian Locomotive and Rolling Stock Co. of China were reportedly designed to run in a four-car configuration, or four units per train even though the existing power system of the MRT-3 was designed for a train with three-cars.

The procurement of the 48 new LRVs is part of the MRT-3 capacity expansion project of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC).

MRT-3 currently operates 73 old LRVs and 48 Chinese-made units for a total of 121 coaches.

Other experts noted that the existing 73 old LRVs are also capable of running in a four-car configuration, but the DOTC and the MRT-3 officials did not attempt using the four-car configuration “because there is not enough power to run the system.”

The expert said the current three-car configuration needs traction power of a maximum 1,350 amperes per vehicle or at least 4,050 amperes for the three LRVs to move the train between stations, while the four-car configuration requires 5,400 amperes.

“That is the maximum amperes. The trains running now are three-car trains only so 4,050 is the maximum amperes that a train could handle at this time,” the expert said.

“I believe that the cars would run, so the question is only how? Most properly in a three-car configuration,” the expert said.  

The DOTC previously said that the project would increase the number of train sets from the current three to the four-car configuration and lessen the interval between trains from three minutes to two and a half minutes.

The train expert, however, explained to The STAR that the existing power supply is not enough to operate the four-car configuration system and that the two and a half minutes interval “is just physically not possible.”

The DOTC said the 48 new LRVs would increase the railway’s capacity from the previous 540,000 riders per day to more than 900,000 commuters with the new configuration system.

But the train expert insisted that the current system capacity of MRT-3 is “actually designed to run for 320,000 to 350,000 passengers only.”

The train expert pointed out that the DOTC and the MRT-3 need to upgrade the current power system and add more tracks to accommodate 48 new LRVs “otherwise they will clog at the end of the station.”

“What you need to provide is more power or you run them on the maximum three car configuration, but you can never run them in a four car configuration as it is,” the expert pointed out.

Asked what would be the worst case scenario should the DOTC and the MRT insist on running the 48 LRVs in a four-car configuration, the experts said the trains will not run efficiently.

Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya said the new plan is part of the rehabilitation and upgrade of MRT-3.

Abaya said he wants to meet the train expert so that DOTC officials could explain the whole upgrade to him “because we have already explained this in the Senate.”

“We would gladly explain to him because you are citing him as a train expert who wants to be anonymous. If he is really a well intentioned train expert and has the public interest in mind then maybe we can learn from him and include his great ideas in our plans. Wouldn’t that be a more constructive way to tap his expertise?” Abaya added.

In a statement posted on the department’s website, the secretary said that two more new LRVs are expected to be delivered by February and four cars per month will be shipped from March until January 2017.

“We are hoping to provide more available trains to the riding public through the 48 additional LRVs, an improvement that should have been done by the system’s private owner, Metro Rail Transit Corp.(MRTC), in the mid-2000 in addition to system upgrades and better maintenance works,” Abaya said.

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