MRT-3 on track to return to high-grade design state

Published July 5, 2019, 4:28 PM

by Francine Ciasico

With its comprehensive rehabilitation underway and ahead of schedule, the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 is on track to return to its original, high-grade design state by the third quarter of 2021.


The Department of Transportation (DOTr) said that, since the Duterte administration took office in 2016, vital steps were taken to put the major rail line back on track.

These include the elimination of underperforming contractual engagements, establishment of a government transition team, and procurement of a proven rehabilitation and maintenance service provider.

“The entire process is taking some time, but we implore the public to trust us that this is the right process to ultimately fix the longstanding issues with the MRT-3,” Transportation Undersecretary for Railways Timothy John Batan said.

“We are not ignorant to the suffering of our commuters. We hear you, we are doing something about it, we are already experiencing gains, and you will experience further a very dramatic change in the rail service in two years’ time,” Batan added.

Through this massive rehabilitation project, the DOTr MRT-3 expects to raise the number of operating trains from 15 to 20 at peak hours, double the train operating speed from 30 to 60 kilometers per hour, and slash by half the headway or waiting time from 7-10 minutes to just 3.5 minutes.Train capacity will likewise double to 650,000 passengers daily.

Contract of underperforming BURI terminated

In November 6, 2017, the DOTr officially terminated its contract with MRT-3’s maintenance service provider, Busan Universal Rail Inc. (BURI), which was engaged by the previous administration.

BURI’s termination was predicated on its poor performance, failure to ensure availability of required number of trains, failure to implement a feasible procurement plan for spare parts, and non-compliance with the requirements of a complete and up-to-date Computerized Management System.
From 2016 to 2017, BURI was only able to overhaul three freight cars instead of 43 freight cars.

Establishment of Maintenance Transition Team

Following the contract termination with BURI, the DOTr established a Maintenance Transition Team (MTT) that temporarily took over the maintenance of the railway system, while the procurement of a new maintenance service provider was being processed.

A month after its establishment, the MTT, through its Special Bids and Awards Committee (BAC), procured 18,579 necessary spare parts, broken down as follows: rolling stock– 9,515; tracks– 7,776; Overhead Catenary System (OCS)– 1,109; and power– 179.

The MTT also procured 78 brand-new air conditioning units (ACUs), 60 units of which have been delivered and already installed in train coaches. The remaining 18 ACUs are set to arrive in August.

Dramatic drop in unloading incidents and service interruptions

Under the MTT supervision, passenger unloading incidents and service interruptions continue to drop.

In 2018, passenger unloading incidents plunged to 57 in 2018 – an immense improvement from 417 passenger unloading incidents posted in 2015; 586 in 2016; and 463 in 2017.

Service interruptions have also considerably decreased in recent years. From 55 service interruptions in 2015; 63 in 2016; 81 in 2017 – service interruptions for 2018 have numbered down to just 17.

For the January-June period alone, the MRT-3 recorded 14 unloading incidents in 2019 – a massive reduction compared to 180 unloading incidents in the first half-year period in 2015; 333 in 2016; 200 in 2017; and 49 in 2018.

Service interruptions for the January-June period, as well, continue to taper. This year saw 12 service interruptions for the first half, a substantial improvement from 25 service interruptions recorded for the same period in 2015; 31 in 2016 and 2017; and 13 in 2018.

Sumitomo returns as MRT-3 rehabilitation and maintenance service provider

Last November 8, 2018, the Philippines and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) signed the P18-billion loan agreement for the rehabilitation of MRT-3.

The DOTr chose to engage the services of Sumitomo Corporation, the original maintenance provider of the rail line, given its proven expertise in rail maintenance. Sumitomo tapped its technical partners, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) and TES Philippines, to assist in the endeavor.

Sumitomo-MHI-TESP was fully mobilized for the system overhaul and comprehensive rehabilitation on May1, 2019, following the handover from MTT. As early as end-2018, however, the Sumitomo-MHI-TESP has already conducted advance transition works for the rehabilitation project.

Under the MRT-3 Rehabilitation Project, Sumitomo-MHI-TESP will undertake the overhaul of all 72 Light Rail Vehicles (LRVs) of the MRT-3, replace all mainline tracks, rehabilitate power and overhead catenary systems, upgrade the signalling system, communications and CCTV systems, and repair all of MRT-3’s escalators and elevators, among other system repairs and improvements.

The project will last for 43 months, with rehabilitation works slated for completion within the first 26 months.

Arrival of spare parts ahead of scheduled delivery dates

In February 2019, prior to receiving any advance payment and as an act of faith in the Duterte administration and in the leadership of DOTr Secretary Arthur Tugade, Sumitomo-MHI-TESP began procurement of tracks, train parts, and other necessary components for the comprehensive rehabilitation of MRT-3.

Following the successful factory test conducted by the Factory Acceptance Team (FAT) for rails headed by MRT-3 Director for Operations Michael Capati at Nippon Steel in Fukuoka, Japan, over 50% of new rails have been shipped and are due to arrive to arrive in the country between this month and August, several months earlier than their scheduled date of delivery.

Rail replacement works for the whole stretch of the MRT-3 mainline will begin in November 2019, and will be completed by February 2021.

Meanwhile, in a meeting with Tugade last June 29, Sumitomo-MHI-TESP also announced that spare parts are due to arrive ahead of schedule.

Rail vehicles (with refurbishment), rail parts, and track parts will arrive this month, three months ahead of scheduled delivery date.

Power supply equipment/OCS will arrive in August 2019, a month ahead of the scheduled delivery date. The Signaling System will also arrive in August, two months earlier than scheduled.

Road rail vehicle / depot equipment will arrive in September, a month ahead of the scheduled delivery date. Meanwhile, the Communication Systems will arrive in December 2019, a month ahead of schedule.

Various rehabilitation works begin

Shortly after the mobilization of Sumitomo-MHI-TESP, various rolling stock rehabilitation works have commenced. These include wheel truing or profiling through the newly repaired wheel lathe machine.

After five years of inoperability, the lathe machine was utilized once again following its repair in March. The use of a lathe machine would cut hours from the time usually spent for reshaping the wheels of LRVs.

With the repair of MRT-3’s wheel lathe machine last March, and the upcoming replacement of all MRT-3 mainline tracks, the trains will be running more smoothly and with less vibration.

Vibration is a bane to mechanical and electrical equipment, and is one of the causes of MRT-3 train breakdowns in the past.

“Dahil baku-bako ‘yung mga riles natin at dahil baku-bako ang gulong ng tren natin, nagiging matagtag ang takbo ng MRT-3, at ‘yang tagtag na ‘yanay isa doon sa pinakamalaking root causes bakit tayo nagkakaaberya. Kasi isipin mo na lang, marami kang mechanical, marami kang electrical components sa loob ng mga bagon, pero ang disenyo naman ng mga tren ay tumakbo sa makinis na riles at makinis na gulong. Kapag excessive ‘yung nagiging tagtag dahil sa baku-bakong riles at gulong, talaga namang maaapektuhan ang reliability ng ating mga tren,” Batan explained.

After MRT-3 train wheels are smoothened using the now-operational wheel lathe machine and once train tracks are smoothened following mainline tracks replacement, vibrations will be substantially reduced, resulting in fewer vibration-related mechanical and electrical breakdowns.

Meanwhile, Sumitomo-MHI-TESP also announced that the Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) has been put in place for a more efficient railway operation.

Station Facility Rehabilitation Works also commenced in June, while Mitsubishi Escalator Rehabilitation Works in stations started last May. Schindler Escalator Rehabilitation will commence soon.

According to the DOTr MRT-3, all these works should have been accomplished years ago.

“Naghahabol po tayo ng oras para sa lahat ng mga taon na nasayang nang hindi nare-rehabilitate ang MRT-3.

Humihingi kami ng tiis at pasensya pa sa publiko para magawa lahat ng ito. Ang mahalaga po ay may ginagawa tayo. Umuusad ang pagpapabuti sa ating MRT,” Batan said.