After 127 depot employees and rail workers tested positive for COVID-19, the MRT-3 could see a reduced number of operational trains beginning Monday, July 6. Currently, some 16 to 19 trains are deployed daily, with each accommodating a maximum of 153 passengers at a time. That number could go down to just 10 to 12 units per day.
“Ito pong darating na Lunes ay maaari po na bumaba yung bilang ng mga tren na ilalabas po natin...dahil po dun sa bilang ng empleyado ng maintenance provider natin na naka-quarantine,” said Timothy John Batan, Department of Transportation undersecretary for railways, during a virtual media briefing.
“Yung ibababa natin base sa [maintenance provider Sumitomo-MHI-TESPI]—hindi pa po ito final—would be from 10 to 12 trains by Monday.
“Hindi pa siya final dahil sa tinitingnan nga ng Sumitomo kung ilan ba yung magiging final number of affected personnel nila sa depot, at...sa bilang ng magiging available na maintenance personnel next week, dun natin ibabase yung bilang ng tren na mailalabas natin.”
In an interview with CNN Philippines, MRT-3 director of operations Michael Capati said that with 16 to 19 operational trains, the headway or waiting time between train arrivals is six to seven minutes. Should there be just 10 to 12 units operating, the headway will be eight to nine minutes.
The DOTr and MRT-3 officials also stressed that the COVID-positive personnel had not been in direct contact with passengers of the rail line. Of the 127 employees that are confirmed to have contracted the coronavirus, 124 are Sumitomo-MHI-TESPI depot personnel, while three are MRT-3 rail workers. In total, the MRT-3 has around 1,700 depot employees. All have undergone swab testing, Capati said during the media briefing, with the results of 57 employees still pending. Station personnel have also completed rapid testing, and are now undergoing swab testing by batches.
If the MRT-3’s operational capacity does end up being reduced, the officials assured that an additional 150 buses provided by the DOTr, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB), and the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) will be available to service passengers. This is in addition to the 60 to 90 buses operated by the MRT-3 under its bus augmentation program.
“[On July 1], sinimulan na natin yung interim EDSA busway operations natin kung saan nagdagdag yung DOTr, LTFRB, at MMDA ng additional 150 buses,” said Goddes Hope Libiran, DOTr assistant secretary for communications and commuter affairs. “Yan yung mga buses na magmumula sa Monumento all the way to PITX.
“From Monumento to Quezon Avenue, yang mga buses na yan ay pwedeng magsakay at magbaba ng pasahero sa designated stops sa curbside, pero pagdating ng Quezon Avenue, sila ay magshi-shift na sa median lane all the way to Estrella at lalabas ulit [sa] Buendia all the way to PITX.”
The fixed dispatching interval for the buses, Batan added, will be reduced to just three minutes. Previously, the buses were dispatched every five minutes.
For those who have to take the MRT-3 on weekends, do be reminded that the rail line has scheduled operational shutdowns on select weekends from July to September. The first shutdown is happening tomorrow and on Sunday (July 4 to 5). To accommodate weekend passengers, the MRT-3 will be deploying 90 buses, with the first and last buses departing at 5:30am and 8pm, respectively, from the North and Taft Avenue stations.