Within the month, at least two of the brand new Dalian trains are expected to undergo nighttime “simulation tests” before being provisionally deployed on the main line of the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) 3 for 150 hours.
But even if the provisional deployment would be pulled off without a hitch, Transportation Undersecretary for Rails TJ Batan was noncommittal when asked whether the new trains would go on to make regular runs.
Return to maker
Should technical problems crop up, the trains would be sent back to the Chinese manufacturer for rehabilitation, he told senators during Tuesday’s hearing on the Department of Transportation (DOTr) budget for 2019.
According to Batan, the nighttime tests would be done in coordination with Toshiba and the Philippine National Railways as part of the government’s efforts to verify the findings made by CRRC Dalian Co. Ltd. and international audit firm TUV Rheinland.
During the hearing, Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade told senators that the China-made trains “[could] apparently be used” provisionally to help improve the operations of the aging and breakdown-prone MRT 3.
He was supported by Batan who said that while there were issues that needed to be addressed, an audit of the Dalian trains showed that these could indeed be used by the public.
One issue was adjusting the compatibility of the MRT 3 maintenance equipment since these were designed for the first-generation Czech-made MRT 3 trains, he said.
Asked by Sen. Nancy Binay if there were problems about the trains’ weight, Batan replied: “There’s an issue but it does not affect the safety and compatibility of the Dalian trains.”
He said that based on the audit conducted by the TUV, the China-made trains, when packed with 1,800 passengers, were within the prescribed fully loaded weight.
While all of the 48 trains purchased by the Aquino administration from Dalian were delivered in January 2017, these were left to gather dust at the MRT 3 depot as the DOTr cited safety and compatibility issues for their nondeployment.
Rail officials had pointed out that the P3.8-billion trains were overweight by at least three tons. Based on Dalian’s contract with the government, the trains should weigh 46.3 tons each but the delivered units weighed 49.7 tons.
Still within limits
Experts stressed, however, that the trains were still within the allowable limit.
Since the start of the year, the MRT 3 has recorded 65 unloading incidents. The latest was yesterday when a southbound train unloaded 700 passengers at Magallanes station after the motor developed electrical problems.
The expected deployment of the Dalian trains comes ahead of the planned general overhaul of the old MRT 3 trains starting next year. Batan said that their contract with the Japan International Cooperation Agency covering 72 MRT 3 coaches would last for 43 months.
During the rehabilitation period, the number of operational trains would go down from 15 to just 10, according to Tugade.
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