By Alena Mae S. Flores | Manila Standard Today | September 27, 2013

A transportation expert has called on the government to start initiating the P10-billion rehabilitation and expansion of the Metro Rail Transit 3 to decongest traffic and ensure the safety of commuters. Rene Santiago, president of Bellwether Advisory Inc., told reporters MRT 3 trains had not undergone an upgrade since 2002 and that they were designed by Czechoslovakia in the 1930s.

MRT 3, which opened in 1999, covers a 16.9-kilometer stretch from North Avenue in Quezon City along Edsa to Taft Avenue in Pasay City.

“The trains were first developed and designed in 1935 or 1938, they are very old design. Of course when it was delivered here, some modern components were added,” Santiago said.

He said the trains were part of the excess production in Czechoslovakia. The trains were built by CKD Doprovni System of Prague of the Czech Republic.

Santiago said the government should not only look at acquiring additional trains to ease traffic but also improve the power and signaling systems to avoid accidents.

“To fully rehabilitate and increase the capacity of MRT 3 in Edsa, you need P10 billion because even the tracks you have to rehabilitate,” he said.

Santiago proposed increasing the capacity of the MRT 3 from 60 trains to 120 trains and upgrading the power and signaling systems.

“Signaling is very critical. It’s a matter of life and death. You could have a train accident. You have to improve the signaling system. It’s a program. It  controls the space between the trains,” he said.

He said the trains are running at every 3 to 4 minutes today but increasing the number will reduce the running time to 2 to 3 minutes.

Santiago said the trains sometimes stop midway due to motor overload, as they were designed to carry only 350,000 passengers a day. MRT 3 now carries 500,000 passengers daily.

He said the government should start upgrading the rail system because a recent study requested by the National Economic and Development Authority and funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency showed the Philippines needed to build 200 kilometers of new railways to decongest traffic.