Recto proposes measures to decongest overcrowded train system

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Friday, February 28, 2014

SENATE President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto said that the government should take interim measures to relieve the congestion at Metro Manila's rail transit system.

"The trains are coming but something must be done about the daily calvary of MRT riders," Recto said.

Full delivery of 48 new Metro Rail Transit (MRT) 3 coaches will happen three months before President Benigno Aquino III bows out of office in 2016.

Recto said, "While the purchase of trains from China has been green lighted by the courts, there remains the need to ease the situation for the transit's more than half a million daily passengers while waiting for their arrival."

One mitigating measure, Recto said, is to further extend the MRT 3 service to midnight.

At present, the last train leaves Trinoma station at 10:30 p.m. while the last one from the opposite direction pulls out of Taft Avenue station at 11 p.m.

"By extending its operating hours by just one hour, the MRT 3 can theoretically field 20 more trips, and thus carry 23,640 more passengers per direction. Even if just 8 trips will be put in service during the extended period, they can still carry what 200 buses can," Recto said.

MRT 3 operators should not worry about the availability of passengers, he said, because Metro Manila, with a population of 13 million, is now a 24/7 metropolis.

Recto said the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) should also ensure that MRT tracks and rolling stocking are properly maintained because "bog downs and technical problems" are the rail passengers' biggest source of inconvenience.

He urged the MRT management to pursue its plans of stepping up rail grinding and replacement projects.

He said airconditioners of MRT coaches should be properly maintained, as "they are a must in the coming summer months."

"The MRT should not be a moving steam bath," Recto said.

Recto said other passenger comfort amenities which should be addressed are "clean toilets, and functioning elevators and escalators, which seniors and the disabled need."

"Hindi mo naman siguro kailangan pang bumili ng gripo sa China para may tubig ang mga banyo," he said.

As to the long queues, which coil around sidewalks below MRT stations, Recto said management should this early purchase tents which will shield passengers from rain in the coming monsoon months.

It should also study the feasibility of increasing the stored value in MRT cards which is presently set at a maximum of P100, Recto said.

"A higher load means fewer trips and shorter lines to the ticket booth," he said.

Amid reports of rising pickpocketing incidents inside coaches and in and around stations, Recto called on both the rail operator and the police to beef up security.

The places around stations must be well lighted, he said.

The senator is also prodding the DOTC to assess the viability of ordering more coaches or what are technically called light rail vehicles (LRVs).

"When the 48 new LRVs will be put in service, they will increase the number of hourly trips from 20 to 24. Because the system can handle one trip every two minutes, or 30 in an hour, then there is room for more trains," Recto said.

If this is feasible, then maybe the outlay needed can be included in the proposed 2015 national budget which, Recto pointed out, "is being assembled at the DBM at the moment."

"Ang punto ko lang, baka naman sa 2017 or 2018 na naman tayo bibili ng dagdag na mga bagon. Kung pwedeng agahan, kung maresolba ang ownership at buyout issues ng maaga, e di maaga din dapat ang pag-order, hindi yung parating huli," he said.

After a Makati court dismissed the injunction case filed by a private corporation last February 21, the DOTC issued a Notice to Proceed to the Dalian Locomotive and Rolling Stock Company of China for the delivery of 48 LRVs.

Under the P3.8 billion contract, Dalian will deliver a prototype within 18 months and deliver the remaining LRVs in tranches over the next 18 months.

The DOTC has however announced that Dalian has promised to deliver the prototype in a year's time, to be followed by monthly deliveries of the LRVs within one year, which means that full delivery is expected by March 2016. (Camille P. Balagtas/Sunnex)

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