Wednesday, September 17, 2014

MRT-3 Upgrading and Buy-Out Happening in Parallel

Wazzup Pilipinas!

With a pipeline of much-needed improvement projects for the Metro Rail Transit III (MRT-3) system on the plate of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), the transport department is fast-tracking their implementation as it pursues the buy-out of the railway separately, so as not to delay any further the relief that riders deserve.

“The modernization and upgrading of MRT-3 is critical in order to improve our services to passengers in terms of both safety and convenience. Most of these projects will be completed in 2015 to 2016 under current timelines, which is why we are already pursuing them separately from the buy-out,” said DOTC Secretary Jun Abaya.

“We need to work together in the interest of MRT-3 riders. Government is still finalizing the details of its buy-out plan, but we will bring this to the private owner as soon as it is completed. The buy-out will pave the way for our long-term plans, which is intended to deliver not only a decent MRT-3 system to the public, but one that we can look forward to taking,” he added.

Earlier this month, the DOTC formed a transition team composed of engineers and staff of the MRT-3 Office and the Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA) to work with and closely monitor regular maintenance works on the system. This move is meant to give government a direct role in ensuring that safety requirements are met and protocols are properly followed on a daily basis, in the interest of the riding public.

At the same time, the DOTC and MRT-3 Office are either procuring or implementing the following improvement projects to ensure medium- to long-term safety, reliability, and convenience of the transit line.

48 New Train Cars and Tap-and-Go Ticketing

Major upgrades that are already underway are the addition of 48 brand-new train cars and the automation of the railway’s ticketing system.

The new train cars are the crucial solution to long lines, as they will increase passenger capacity by 66%. This means that the current 3-car configuration will be made into 4-car sets, and they will arrive at 2.5-minute intervals instead of the current 3 minutes.

The prototype unit of the new train cars will be tested on the system by August 2015, and once approved, 3-4 new units will be delivered every month thereafter. While complete delivery of the 48 train cars will be accomplished in December 2016, each monthly delivery will already afford partial relief to riders.

Meanwhile, the Automatic Fare Collection System (AFCS) project is also underway, with partial operations at the MRT-3 and Light Rail Transit Lines 1 and 2 (LRT-1 and LRT-2) starting in July 2015. This contactless or tap-and-go ticketing scheme, which will cut queuing time and speed up line transfers, will be fully operational by September 2015.

Other Improvement Projects in the Pipeline

The DOTC has set out its timelines for the improvement program as follows:

Conveyance Facilities
This will make all elevators and escalators operational by replacing obsolete systems.
Dec. 2014
Mar. 2015
Rail Replacement
Portions of the rail will be replaced with new pieces to maximize train speed and improve safety.
Nov. 2014
Apr. 2015
Traction Motors Replacement
Train engine motors will be replaced to maximize the use of the train cars and improve service reliability.
Nov. 2014
May 2015
Signaling System
Upgrading of signaling and software systems to improve reliability and enhance passenger safety.
Sept. 2014
Phase 1 –
Apr. 2015
Phase 2 –
Sept. 2015
Ancillary Systems
This will allow the 48 new train cars to be integrated into the system by adding depot parking facilities, power substations, and others.
Dec. 2014
Sept. 2015
New Radio Communications System
Replace the entire radio communications system to improve operations coordination.
Dec. 2014
June 2015
North Avenue Footbridge
Construction of an additional footbridge at the North Avenue station to accommodate queues.
Jan. 2015
Sept. 2015
Train Overhaul
Repair of 72 existing train cars (2 cars per month) as part of maintenance for better facilities and improved safety.
Dec. 2014
Dec. 2017

Equity Value Buy-Out in the Works

Government’s long-term plan for the MRT-3 is to implement an Equity Value Buy-Out (EVBO) of the system’s private sector-owner Metro Rail Transit Corporation (MRTC) pursuant to the Build-Lease-Transfer (BLT) Concession Agreement.

Under Executive Order No. 167 s. 2013, the DOTC and the Department of Finance (DOF) are tasked to implement the EVBO, to put an end to the ongoing arbitration case in Singapore between the DOTC and the MRTC. This will also terminate the Concession Agreement, end government’s obligation to pay billions of pesos in equity rental payments to MRTC annually, and transfer ownership over the MRT-3 to government. The DOTC is seeking a P 53-Billion appropriation in the 2015 budget for the EVBO.

Once the buyout is complete, the transport agency may then bid out an operations and maintenance (O&M) contract for the line, thereby tapping private sector efficiency and customer service orientation for operational needs, while retaining regulatory functions for passenger protection with government.

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