MANILA – To boost the government’s economic recovery efforts from the impact of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) Secretary Arthur Tugade has instructed the railways sector to gradually increase the maximum passenger capacity of trains to accommodate more commuters beginning Monday.
In a press release issued on Sunday, the DOTr said the Philippine National Railway (PNR), Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT-3), and the Lines 1 and 2 of the Light Rail Transit (LRT) will increase their respective minimum passenger capacities from 18 percent to 30 percent. It will then be gradually expanded up to 50 percent capacity.
Due to the gradual increase of passenger capacity, DOTr Undersecretary for Railways TJ Batan said Tugade gave instructions to adjust social distancing marks inside the trains and to strictly follow the seven commandments to prevent Covid-19 infections.
“Our railway lines are preparing for the increased capacity, initially to 30 percent. Ang bilin po ni Secretary Tugade, dapat po ay dahan-dahan ang pagdagdag sa kapasidad ng mga tren at siguruhing mahigpit na ipatutupad ang 7 commandments upang maprotektahan ang kalusugan ng ating mga commuter (The instruction of Secretary Tugade was a gradual increase in train capacity and make sure seven commandments are followed to protect the health of the commuters),” Batan said.
To curb the spread of Covid-19 amid these developments, Tugade ordered the transport sector to ensure the strict enforcement of the seven commandments inside public transport, as recommended by health experts:
The seven commandments to curb the spread of Covid-19 include no talking and making phone calls; no eating; keep public utility vehicles (PUVs) well-ventilated; conduct frequent disinfection; no passengers with Covid-19 symptoms would be allowed inside public transportation, and observe appropriate physical distancing (“one-seat apart” rule).
Train marshals will be deployed in stations and inside the trains to ensure stringent compliance of passengers.
With the new passenger capacity, the MRT-3 train capacity will increase from 153 to 372 passengers per train set and 591 passengers once 50 percent capacity is implemented.
“The increased train capacity is a big help for our passengers. Shorter waiting time and the faster travel time will also help them to have better service from the rail line. We will make sure that as we implement the increased capacity inside the trains, we will also strictly enforce our health and safety protocols for the benefit of our passengers,” MRT-3 Director for Operations Michael J. Capati said.
The MRT-3 also increased its train speed to 40 kilometers per hour on Oct. 1 after completion of the installation of new long-welded rails (LWRs) in all the MRT-3 stations, as part of the massive rehabilitation program of the rail line, which is being implemented by Sumitomo-Mitsubishi Heavy from Japan. Its operating speed will gradually increase to 50kph by November and 60kph by December 2020.
The LRT-1 line, on the other hand, will also be increasing its passenger capacity to 370 passengers per train set. Once capacity is increased to 40 percent, it will be able to load up to 495 passengers per train set and with 50 percent, 620 passengers.
For the LRT-2, trains will be able to accommodate 486 passengers per train set at 30 percent capacity, 652 passengers for 40 percent, and 814 at 50 percent capacity.
Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA) Administrator Reynaldo Berroya said the increased passenger capacity will ensure that more workers will be brought to their workplaces as Metro Manila and its adjacent areas slowly reopen for business under general community quarantine (GCQ).
“We welcome this new development from the DOTr and we assure compliance. This eased physical distancing rule and increase in train capacity will benefit a greater number of our valued commuters while also supporting the country’s journey towards economic growth and recovery,” Berroya said.
For its part, the PNR will be implementing an increase to 30 percent in the capacity of each of the rail line’s train models.
“We will comply with the directive, nevertheless we have the health and safety of our passengers as a priority. We shall obtain the best possible capacity based on the parameters set utilizing optimal means to isolate passengers. While we aim for economic reintegration through the transportation service, we also keep in mind the safety of our passengers and employees,” PNR GM Junn Magno said.
Under 30 percent capacity, PNR will be able to accommodate 179 passengers per train set for the DMU ROTEM model; 167 passengers per train set for the DMU 8000; 228 passengers per train set for the DMU 8100; and 302 passengers per train set for the EMU model.
At 40 percent increased capacity, the DMU ROTEM model can cater to 196 passengers per train set; 182 passengers per train set for DMU 8000; 249 for DMU 8100; and EMU, 330 passengers per train set.
Once the 50 percent capacity is implemented, the PNR will be able to serve 212 passengers per train set for the DMU ROTEM model; 198 passengers for DMU 8000; 270 for the DMU 8100 model; and 357 passengers per train set for the EMU model. (DOTr PR)