By Philstar | March 20, 2016

DAANG Matuwid presidential candidate Mar Roxas and Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya keep announcing that 48 new coaches will arrive soon from Dalian Locomotive of China to help solve Metro Rail Transit-3 commuter problems.


Assuming this is true and the coaches arrive on schedule, where will Abaya and his managers park them? Will they sit at the port while DOTC thinks about bidding out Phase 2 of the Capacity Expansion Project for adding new trains to the existing line?

The stabling works, or the building of the rails where the light rail vehicles or train coaches will be “stabled” or parked, is part of Phase 2 of the expansion project (Phase 1 being primarily focused on buying additional trains.)

There was a pre-bid conference for Phase 2 scheduled last February. However, just this March 15 the bidding was canceled without explanation. Until yesterday, there has been no official word on where to put the Dalian trains after arrival.

Creating the depot annex or the stabling works for the new trains is no simple task. In the original depot, the project covered a footprint of around 80,000 square meters with over 4,000 people working on it at one point. Over a thousand columns were built, spaced at intervals of 8 to 11 meters and some as tall as 16 meters to accommodate not only the trains but also a maintenance area.

Engineers stressed the importance of making sure that the stabling be not done haphazardly, since compromising the structural integrity could be disastrous and costly.

The project for a “stabling area” could have been done as early as two years ago. A letter from former MRT-3 General Manager Al Vitangcol to DOTC Assistant Secretary Dante Lantin showed that as far back as March 25, 2014, top management had been informed that: “The construction of the Depot Annex is necessary in light of the Department’s recent procurement of 48 additional coaches for MRT-3 System.”

The letter added: “The present Depot at the basement of Trinoma Mall can accommodate only up to a maximum of 120 light rail vehicles (LRVs). Thus, it is suggested that the Depot Annex, estimated to occupy about 5,000 square meters, be constructed in the basement of the proposed DOTC building, which will in turn be erected in its original location as planned within the vicinity of the MRT-3 Depot.”

• DOTC has not accepted Dalian train?

AN UPDATE last January had the DOTC boasting that they were set to add a new train (consisting of four cars or coaches) before April. Another DOTC statement last February announced the four coaches have arrived.

Before this train can be launched and hooked up to the system, the DOTC secretary must officially accept it from the supplier, and affirm that it did meet the requirements in the Terms of Reference.

The ToR requires a 5,000-kilometer test run for the first unit, passing the type tests, endurance test, including a test where a rig will test the opening and closing of the doors, design qualification test, brakes test, et cetera.

The DOTC has not shown that it has accepted the coaches that have arrived nor confirmed if they have passed the tests. There are reports, meanwhile, that some requirements, such as having a signaling system for each train, have not been met.

Another problematic detail: the signaling for the MRT-3 is from Bombardier Transportation Signal Ltd. Any LRV that goes into the MRT-3 system, including the Dalian trains, must be compatible with the Bombardier system, which is licensed and covered by patents.

Bombardier has confirmed, however, that neither DOTC nor Dalian has ordered any signaling components for the Chinese trains. Did the DOTC award to Dalian a contract for an incomplete train, in violation of its own ToR? Would this explain the Chinese supplier’s lower price? - Federico D. Pascual Jr.