48 new MRT-3 coaches cannot be used until next year - DOTr exec

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — New Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT-3) coaches have finally arrived in the country, but a transportation official said on Wednesday the new units would not be usable for at least a year to a year and a half.

Department of Transportation (DOTr) Undersecretary for the Rail Sector Cesar Chavez said while the 48 Dalian coaches had been delivered, the management still had to address various issues before they could be used.

Chinese companies Dalian Locomotive Corp. and Rolling Stock Co. supplied the new MRT-3 coaches as part of a ₱3.8-billion contract in 2014.

"Ang expectation ng tao ay magagamit ito. Ang pakiramdam ko ay hindi natin magagmait ito in the next one to 1.5 years," he said.

[Translation: The people expect the trains could be used immediately. I have the feeling they will not be usable in the next one to 1.5 years.]

Chavez said one of the issues to be addressed was that the MRT did not have enough power supply to run the 48 additional cars, which is equivalent to 16 trains.

"Para magamit mo iyan, kelangan i-expand mo iyong power. Ang power matatapos nang November 2017," he explained.

[Translation: To use the new trains, power needs to be expanded. The power supply would be finished by November 2017.]

He added the Transportation department has already contracted companies to increase the power supply in the MRT-3 line.

Chavez also said the signaling system of the new trains was yet to be installed, while the trains' rails needed to be fixed.

"Para gumana iyan sa, para masuyod lahat ng nakapila dyan…maayos dapat ang riles. Ngayon, from 65 kph nasa 40 kph na lang ang takbo," he said.

[Translation: For it to work, to service all the passengers…the rails have to be fixed. Now, from 65 kph, the trains run at 40 kph only.]

Meanwhile, MRT Director for Operations Deo Leo Manalo said the new signaling system for the new Dalian trains was already being installed and undergoing tests for completion.

In fact, Manalo said he expected two trains -- each with three coaches -- might already be used soon.

"We're planning to run two trains by that time we receive the certification from Bombardier that the trains are safe. We'll finish that within one month or two."

Bombardier Transportation Signal, Ltd. is in charge of upgrading the signaling system of the MRT, after being commissioned by the now defunct Department of Transportation and Communications back in 2015.

As of now, the MRT caters to almost half a million passengers daily, with twenty trains plying the North Edsa to Pasay-Taft route every day, from as early as 4:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.