DOTr: MRT-3 service to improve by late-2017

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Transportation officials are looking at a fully improved MRT-3 service in less than a year resulting from a series of upgrades.

MRT-3 officer-in-charge Deo Manalo said the delivery of 48 new wagons will be completed by early next year. These will add to the 72 existing wagons in service.

Manalo also said ancillary systems should be done by the end of 2017. The signaling system, which is a key safety feature, will be complete by early 2018.

"Expect na gaganda yung serbisyo by fourth quarter next year," Manalo said. "Dito sa first quarter, pwede na tumakbo yung mga bagong bagon. In some periods, papatakbuhin sila. (We're) still studying what periods," he added.

[Translation: Expect that the service would improve by the fourth quarter of next year. In the first quarter, the new wagons can be rolled out. They will be run in some periods.]

Transportation Assistant Secretary for Rail Cesar Chavez said more commuters are taking the MRT-3, with the line now carrying an average of over 420,000 passengers daily.

Officials believe the additional passengers may have come from those commuting on EDSA.

"In January this year, the ridership was 9.8 million," said Chavez. "On October this year, ridership was 12.2 million. Nagdagdag kami ng pasahero ng 2.4 million," he added. [We got an additional 2.4 million passengers].

The Transportation Department is also improving facilities in train stations, with all elevators and escalators expected to be operational by early next year.

Naga-to-Manila PNR route reopening

Meanwhile, Philippine National Railways (PNR) officials said they will reopen the Naga to Manila route on Dec. 15. The Manila-Bicol line was last operational in 2012.

"The (Transportation secretary) directed us not only to meet and conduct workshops  with senior engineers and area managers of PNR, but also directed us to conduct ocular inspection. We did it twice and will do another ocular on Nov. 18 to Naga," Chavez said.

PNR officials said there are also ongoing station-development projects, including the lengthening of platforms and the addition of passenger waiting areas.

Transport officials also said a performance review committee, composed of senior and experienced engineers, will monitor and report on the progress of the rail projects to Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade in the next 15 to 30 days.