By Ellalyn de Vera-Ruiz and Dhel Nazario
The Department of Transportation (DOTr) will be deploying more and faster trains running in the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT-3) to compensate for the reduced passenger capacity starting today, June 1.
From 15 train sets before the implementation of the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ), passengers will see 19 trains running in MRT-3 when Metro Manila transitions into General Community Quarantine (GCQ).
“Starting Monday, trains will no longer be 14 or 15. Nineteen will be used. In this way, the number of trips will increase, as well as the number of riders, despite the limited capacity (of the MRT-3),” DOTr Secretary Arthur Tugade said.
Moreover, from a pre-ECQ operating speed of 30 kilometers per hour (kph), trains will be running at up to 40 kph starting on Monday in certain sections of the MRT-3 mainline, specifically between North Avenue and Santolan stations, and between Buendia and Taft stations, the DOTr said.
“This will reduce headway, or the time between trains, from an average of nine minutes pre-ECQ to an average of six minutes upon resumption of operations,” it added.
The DOTr attributed the increase in the number of train sets and operating speed to the progress in rail replacement works conducted by MRT-3 during ECQ and modified ECQ, and the agreement of Sumitomo and the concurrence of the Japan International Cooperation Agency to the deployment of three Dalian train sets to add capacity to MRT-3 during GCQ operations.
“Since we have already done some rail replacement projects, you will experience the speed of our trains in some parts of the existing line at 40 kph, from 25 to 30 kph previously,” Tugade said.
MRT-3 Director for Operation Michael Capati said this development will aid the expected reduction of the line’s capacity.
“Having more trains, faster operating speed, and lower headway are intended to contribute in mitigating the reduction in capacity of MRT-3, which will only be able to accommodate 153 passengers per train set, or 13 percent of its pre-ECQ capacity of 1,182 passengers per train set, due to implementation of the one-meter social distancing inside trains,” Capati said.
“The MRT-3 is ready to serve the public beginning June 1 for a gradual, calculated, and partial operation,” he added.
Physical distancing markers have been also placed inside the 19 train sets, to implement the one-meter social distancing requirement of the Interagency Task Force (IATF) and Department of Health (DOH) guidelines.
DOTr Undersecretary for Railways TJ Batan noted that with passenger operations being suspended during ECQ and Modified ECQ, MRT-3 was able to advance its rail replacement works ahead of schedule.
As of May 28, 40,140 linear meters out of 65,892 linear meters of rail have been replaced (60.92 percent), with 9,216 linear meters replaced during ECQ and MECQ.
“Rail replacement works are expected to be completed by September, 2020, several months ahead of its February, 2021, target completion date. Following completion of rail replacement works, train operating speed will gradually increase from 40 kph to 60 kph by December, 2020, leading to a reduction of headway, or the time between trains, down to 3.5 minutes,” Batan said.
The completion of rail replacement will also improve the reliability of MRT-3 by lessening vibration, which is a common cause of malfunctions and delays, the DOTr said.
As Metro Manila will be under General Community Quaratine (GCQ) starting today, the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) is ready for the expected resumption of domestic flights.
MIAA General Manager Ed Monreal said domestic carriers have already expressed their intention to operate beginning June 1.
But Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) chief legal officer Wyrlou Samodio said that no domestic flight has been approved yet for the first week of June.
In a text message to the Philippine News Agency (PNA), Samodio said the IATF “has yet to approve the routes for domestic air services proposed by airlines for the resumption of domestic operations in the first week of June.”
The CAB added that it advised airlines to cancel their flights on June 1 and to stop selling tickets for the said date.
The MIAA will be determining the terminal usage depending on the number of flights that will be mounted. Only flights duly approved by the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) will be considered for slotting.
Monreal has ordered all terminal managers to prepare for the expected resumption of domestic flights which will operate from GCQ to GCQ areas only, following the recommendation of Department of Transportation (DOTr) Secretary Arthur Tugade to President Duterte.
He said that international operations shall continue, subject to the 400 passengers a day cap imposed by the InterAgency Task Force (IATF) for inbound flights. For planning purposes however, the MIAA requested the airlines to submit their plans after May 31.
Already 21 airlines have submitted their flight plans out of 26 which are operating in Terminal 1. To get domestic operations off the ground, the MIAA will be adopting three options: Terminal 1 shall service international commercial flights while Terminal 2 shall service all repatriation and sweeper flights and commercial domestic flights of Philippine Airlines. Terminal 3 shall be used by Cebu Pacific and Air Asia. Meanwhile, Terminal 4 shall remain closed.
“MIAA deemed it best to adopt these options so that it can maximize the use of the Terminals while striking a balance between ensuring efficient flight operations and being cost-effective,” Monreal stressed.
Cebu Pacific reopens with limited domestic flights
Cebu Pacific will be resuming with a limited number of domestic flights on June 2 while all international flights will still be suspended from June 1 to June 30.
“We will continue to work with the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF), as well as other national and local government authorities, on the rules and requirements to resume commercial passenger flights between areas under General Community Quarantine (GCQ),” the airline said on Saturday.
From June 2 to 4, they will be having flights from Manila to General Santos to Manila; from June 3 to 4, there will be flights from Manila to General Santos to Manila; Manila to Naga to Manila; Manila to Cagayan de Oro to Manila; and Manila to Cebu to Manila.
All flights from Manila will depart and arrive from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3.
Operational dry run
The DOTr, together with the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) and the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) conducted an operational dry run and site inspection along EDSA on Saturday in preparation for the gradual resumption of mass public transport operations.
Tugade said the new traffic scheme in EDSA, which will be done in two phases, is a move that will transform the usual severely-congested highway. The new scheme involves the creation of median bus lanes and rationalization of routes.
MMDA Chairman Danilo Lim and MMDA General Manager Jojo Garcia said they will also put up bike lanes along EDSA to promote the use of nonmotorized transport (NMT).