Riding LRT, MRT now 'very risky'

By Jonathan L. Mayuga, BusinessMirror

Posted at Sep 27 2013 07:19 AM | Updated as of Sep 27 2013 11:17 PM

MANILA -- Riding the Light Rail Transit (LRT) and Metro Rail Transit (MRT) has become dangerous, according to a railway expert who said their facilities are poorly maintained and the software technologies used to operate the trains by remote control are already obsolete.

According to Rene Santiago, a civil engineer, the MRT is apparently still using the same operating system since it started in 2003.

He blamed mismanagement on the part of the operators of the LRT and MRT for their present “sorry state.”

He said the computer’s system that operates the railways by remote control should be updated as often as possible, considering that the lives of tens of thousands of people are at stake in every trip.

Also, Santiago said, the designs of the LRT coaches date back to the 1940s­—the same design used by Russians. Of course, the coaches being used have somehow improved but just the same, they are already outdated compared to coaches in other countries, he said.

The LRT and MRT rails, he also said, are no longer properly aligned and need to be replaced. He noted that some rides in both trains are already “shaky,” indicating rail problems that could lead to tragic accidents.

“Every journey at MRT 3 is now a risky trip. We are tempting faith when we take that ride. Every day we ride, we pray that no accident would happen,” he said.

Santiago said the elevated railway system badly needs improvement to enhance the trains’ capacity to serve more passengers and with less risk of accident.

“Surprisingly, the problem is not money anymore. The problem is in the execution,” he said.

He said the present capacity of the MRT and LRT could be doubled by buying more trains. But this would also entail renovating the stations and putting in place a signaling system that is updated to ensure passenger safety. With more trains, power requirement would also have to be increased, he said.

The MRT has 60 trains at present, which service some 500,000 commuters daily. The government would have to spend P10 billion to renovate and update the system. Likewise, he said, the capacities of the LRT Lines 1 and 2 could be enhanced either by repairing the trains or buying new ones. The government must also put in place a new signaling system, he said.

Santiago said enhancing the capacities of the LRT and the MRT will greatly ease traffic congestion in Metro Manila.

Citing various studies, including that by the Japanese International Cooperation Agency, he said the government needs to construct more elevated railways and networks of roads.

At least 200 kilometers of railways and 150,000 kilometers of roads need to be constructed within the next 15 years, he said.