All rail lines hike capacity today
Aside from the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT-3), the Department of Transportation (DOTr) said the Light Rail Transit Line 1, LRT-2 and the Philippine National Railways will also increase their respective maximum passenger capacities to 30 percent beginning today.
The STAR/Michael Varcas
All rail lines hike capacity today
Ghio Ong, Richmond Mercurio (The Philippine Star) - October 19, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — All rail lines will increase capacity starting today to serve more commuters.

Aside from the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT-3), the Department of Transportation (DOTr) said the Light Rail Transit Line 1, LRT-2 and the Philippine National Railways (PNR) will also increase their respective maximum passenger capacities to 30 percent beginning today.

This will then be gradually expanded up to 50 percent, according to the DOTr.

Social distancing marks inside the trains will be adjusted for the passengers.

With the increased capacity, LRT-1 trains will accommodate 370 passengers per train set, while LRT-2 trains will be able to accommodate 486 passengers per train set.

LRT Authority administrator Reynaldo Berroya said the higher passenger capacity would ensure that more workers would be brought to their workplaces as Metro Manila and its adjacent areas slowly reopen for business under general community quarantine.

“We welcome this new development from the DOTr and we assure compliance. This eased physical distancing rule and increase in train capacity will benefit a greater number of our valued commuters while also supporting the country’s journey toward economic growth and recovery,” Berroya said.

Meanwhile, the PNR will be able to serve 179 passengers per train set for the DMU ROTEM model, 167 passengers per train set for the DMU 8000, 228 passengers per train set for the DMU 8100 and 302 passengers per train set for the EMU model, starting today.

“We will comply with the directive, nevertheless, we have the health and safety of our passengers as priority. We shall obtain the best possible capacity based on the parameters set utilizing optimal means to isolate passengers. While we aim for economic reintegration through the transportation service, we also keep in mind the safety of our passengers and employees,” PNR general manager Junn Magno said.

Last Saturday, the DOTr announced that starting today, the MRT-3 would serve 372 passengers per train set from the previous 153 passengers per train set with its capacity hike.

Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade has instructed the agency’s railways sector to gradually increase the maximum passenger capacity of trains to accommodate more commuters pursuant to the decision of President Duterte and his Cabinet to approve the recommendations of the Economic Development Council to aid in economic recovery.

“The order of Secretary Tugade is there should be a gradual increase in the capacities of the trains and make sure that the seven commandments are implemented to protect the health of our commuters,” DOTr Undersecretary for railways TJ Batan said.

The DOTr said train marshals would be deployed in stations and inside the trains to ensure stringent compliance of passengers to the so-called seven commandments inside public transport.

The seven commandments include wearing of face masks and face shields, no talking and making telephone calls, no eating, keeping public utility vehicles (PUVs) well-ventilated, frequent disinfection, disallowing passengers with COVID-19 symptoms inside public transportation and observing appropriate physical distancing.

The DOTr drew flak last month even from other government agencies after it announced that physical distancing of passengers inside PUVs, including trains, would be reduced to less than a meter.

The agency aimed to cut the enforced one-meter distance between commuters to 0.75 meters, then half a meter, then 0.3 meters.

Año now OK with 1-seat apart

Previously against the easing of social distancing efforts inside public vehicles, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said he now agrees with the new one-seat apart rule in public transport.

Año said the new rule would help add transportation options for commuters as more businesses reopen amid the pandemic.

He noted that around 400,000 commuters could be left stranded if public transport is not opened further.

The head of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) gave assurance that the one-seat apart rule still guarantees safety for the passengers, as long as they follow other health protocols.

“It is safe to have one seat apart, plus there are face shields and face masks, and no talking, no use of telephone, it’s OK because that’s the configuration of the vehicle. It’s hard if you destroy the seats because you need to measure,” Año said in Filipino in an interview with radio station dzBB.

The DILG chief said they are ready to stop lenient measures such as these or even impose drastic ones if there is a surge in COVID-19 transmission.

“The key here really is cooperation of everyone. We believe that these numbers of new cases can be controlled and managed,” he added. – Romina Cabrera

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