The MRT3 Dalian trains now provide a surprisingly pleasant ride—but it had a bumpy history 2
A Dalian train (which has three coaches) can carry up to 1,050 passengers. Photo from ABS-CBN News

The MRT3 Dalian trains now provide a surprisingly pleasant ride—but it had a bumpy history

The 3.8 billion peso question—when do we see the rest of them running?
ANCX Staff | Oct 05 2020

If you’re one of the brave souls who has tried taking the MRT3 during the pandemic, you might have lucked out and chanced upon one of the three China-made Dalian trains that started to run the MRT tracks last October 2019.

We were just reminded of these trains by tweet from a Joey Hernandez MD (@joefranc). The doctor posted about his “surprisingly pleasant” experience riding the said train on a Sunday. He didn’t say it was one of the Dalian trains but his commenters just assumed it was. The tweet came with a short video showing the spacious interiors of the wagon and the improved voice-over—“akin to what I hear in SG,” the doctor wrote. He also noted the strict enforcement of physical distancing by the marshals.

British vlogger that goes by the name Gadget Addict had published a video back in October 2019 giving a closer look at the Dalian trains, including a few features that are possibly not known to many. The car’s outer body comes in eye-catching shades of yellow and sky blue. From the outside, it generally looks snazzier than the old blue-white-and red trains (or is it perhaps because they’re new?).

Noticeable changes, as can be seen in the video, are the seats and handle bars that come in a cooler shade of cyan. The vlogger noted the fully functioning air-conditioning unit (“even when the door is open, it’s very cold in here,” he said), the new PA system which has pre-recorded announcements (a commenter of @joeyfranc’s post said “hindi na parang lasing na driver”), and a few safety features such as a function that secures wheelchairs so they don’t move around during trips, and a fire extinguisher by every door. Like the old trains, this one is equipped with a passenger emergency alarm.

The Dalian train (MRTC 3000 class) looks more spacious than the old train (MRTC 3000), probably because of the bigger headroom—the height of the former is 3,724 mm (12 ft 2.6 in) and the latter 3,550 mm (11 ft 8 in). Both cars have the same train length of 33,000 mm (108 ft 3 in) and width of 2,480mm (8ft 2in).

The DOTr previously mentioned in a statement that one Dalian train (which has three coaches) can carry up to 1,050 passengers.

To answer a question you may be meaning to ask—yes, we are talking about the controversial trains purchased during former President Noynoy Aquino’s administration back in 2015. The 48 trains were bought for 3.8 billion pesos.

The deployment of the trains had been delayed for years due to alleged incompatibility of the trains with the MRT 3 railways systems. The February 2018 Senate hearing revealed that only 29 of the 48 trains had signaling systems and that the trains weighed more than Manila’s tracks were rated to carry.

This allegation was answered by CRRC Dalian officials in an interview with ANC in March 2018, saying they are confident about the performance of their product. The company’s general manager of overseas, Li Depu, noted though that they had to adjust the heels of the coaches due to the bad condition of the MRT3 tracks. They also insisted the trains are within the allowable weight limit. This was later cleared by railway expert TUV Rheinland, which conducted an audit.

In August of 2018, Secretary Tugade mentioned in an interview with DZMM’s Dos for Dos that CCRC Dalian accepted the task to modify and adjust the Dalian trains to be operational without any cost to the Philippine government, adding that the agreement also included the technical evaluation and audit of the trains by German firm TUV Rheinland.

Three Dalian trains had so far passed the required reliability, availability, maintainability, and sustainability validation test for the safety of its passengers. Thirteen more sets of the said trains are expected to be used for MRT3 operations in 2022, said DOTr Undersecretary Timothy John Batan in a recent interview.