By Inquirer | | September 4, 2015

The prototype for a new batch of badly needed trains for the congested Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT 3) has begun assembly in the Philippines ahead of the government’s plan to begin taking deliveries of new train cars by early next year.

The prototype made by Chinese train maker CNR Dalian Locomotive and Rolling Stock Co. was delivered to the train depot of the Light Rail Transit (LRT) Line 1 in Pasay City on Thursday where it is being assembled by Dalian engineers. It will then be moved to the train depot of the MRT 3, transportation department spokesperson Michael Sagcal said.

Transportation Secretary Joseph Abaya told reporters Thursday that the prototype has yet to undergo various tests to ensure the safety of commuters.

“The testing is up to December [this year],” Abaya said, referring to their latest target. He explained that there were earlier delays as some of Dalian’s engineers had difficulty securing visas.

Abaya said that once the final design is accepted by the Philippine government, Dalian can begin delivering 48 train coaches as part of a P3.75-billion contract the Chinese firm had won.

Under the contract, the company should deliver three train coaches per month starting early 2016, Abaya said. The new cars would help augment MRT 3’s existing fleet of 73 cars, although a significant number of these are in need of repairs and new parts, and are currently inoperable.

The new cars would ease congestion at MRT 3, which serves over half a million commuters daily, well above its intended capacity of 350,000 persons.