Transport Secretary: Fewer MRT trains to run during three-year repair

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 17) — Transport authorities said Tuesday fewer Metro Rail Transit (MRT) 3 trains will be operational starting August while the line is undergoing rehabilitation and maintenance.

Transport Secretary Arthur Tugade said as few as 12 trains will run daily once Sumitomo Corporation returns as the service provider for MRT-3.

"Yung rehabilitation program, kukumpunihin yung riles, titingnan ang tren at bagon," Tugade said. "Ang tren lang na tatakbo per target is 12 trains. Ibig sabihin hindi ho natin maa-achieve yung gusto natin na 500,000 per day ridership."

While Tugade did not reveal an exact date when the rehabilitation will start, he said it will last for 43 months, or about three years and seven months.

Sumitomo built the MRT system in 1998, and maintained it until 2012.

Since April 2018, at least 15 trains have been running on the railway line on weekdays.

Tugade said the reduction of working trains is necessary to conduct repairs on the aging railway line, which serves 500,000 passengers daily. He said passengers will have a better riding experience once the repairs are finished.

"On the immediate term, hopefully you'll have a better headway, yun bang tinatawag na six minutes, seven minutes baka pwede nang three to four," Tugade said.

The Transport Secretary also said he is optimistic that the 48 train coaches bought from Chinese company CRRC Dalian will eventually be used, after German audit firm TUV Rheinland finished inspecting the trains and found that they can still be used after making certain adjustments.

"Kung magagamit yung Dalian at masusuportahan ng riles, the best case scenario, hindi ba the more trains the better?...The exact when, when we finished talking," Tugade said.

The Dalian trains are part of a ₱3.8-billion contract signed in 2014 between the Chinese firm and the Aquino administration. The trains arrived in 2015, but these were not used because of issues of weight and compatibility with the MRT-3 maintenance facilities and signaling system.

The Transportation Department has given Dalian until August 20 to finalize details of the adjustments it will make on the trains, in time for the high-level talks between the Philippines and China.