House members thumb down slow speed of DOST’s hybrid electric train

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Members of the House committee on transportation have questioned the viability and capability of the new electric trains of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) because of the coaches’ low speed.

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The lawmakers expressed skepticism over the capability of the new trains during the hearing conducted by the committee chaired by Catanduanes Rep. Cesar V. Sarmiento on the trial run of the DOST coaches.

In April of this year, DOST commenced the testing of the hybrid electric train, which it locally developed and fabricated. The new trainset, which uses diesel and batteries for its power system, is intended for use by the Philippine National Railways (PNR).

The Metals Industry Research and Development Center (MIRDC), an attached unit of the DOST that is leading the initiative, said that unlike the LRT and the MRT which uses “catenary and pantograph” as a power source, the hybrid train system has a regenerative braking system that stores up energy to the battery bank.

But Marikina City Rep. Bayani F. Fernando said it will not be viable to operate the new trains because of their low speed. He called for a total railway system review to ensure capability of the new trains to service commuters.

“What is the speed of these trains? So it’s another choo-choo train. Eighty kilometers per hour, ganun na lang ba tayo? Anong klaseng train iyan, 80 kilometers per hour? Ang mga trains ngayon sa mundo 200 kilometers per hour,” said Fernando.

Fernando, former Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) chairman, advised the resource persons from the transport sector to look at the use of the railway system in Tokyo, Japan, which is backed by high-capacity trains.

He said first-level, second-level, and third-level elevated railways may not be viable and proposed that the transport sector conduct a feasibility study on an underground subway system.

“The new trains are running slow that a total railway system review is needed. It has to be done as a national effort. To do this, we have to think big, at least huwag na natin sabihin 200 kilometers per hour (ang train speed), but we have to run it faster than road travel. We have to do actions to attain this objective,” said Fernando.

He said there was a major mistake in transport planning, resulting in worsening traffic in Metro Manila. “We really need to have a new look at this system. I would move for a total review of this system,” said Fernando, a committee vice chairman.

Sarmiento, committee chairman, said the DOST offered to increase the trains’ speed to 80 kilometers per hour.

“But definitely, we want that speed to go up like for instance in the MRT 3, the trains ran fast when the MRT 3 was newly operated. But because of deterioration and the passage of time, the trains became slower. That is why the trains are undergoing repair and maintenance to return to their original status. So, we welcome increasing the speed to 80 kilometers per hour rather than content ourselves with the present speed rate of 40 kilometers per hour,” said Sarmiento.

Sarmiento said the purpose of the dry run is to increase ridership. Because the PNR is short of coaches, the DOST will provide additional coaches instead of importing these from abroad.

Sarmiento said that from the PNR station in Alabang to Tutuban, without the additional coaches, the train ridership is about 60,000 people daily. But with the additional coaches, train ridership will increase to 80,000 people per day.

Sarmiento said the DOST has the capability to make trains and buses, and even volunteered to help the PNR.

“What they are asking for is to conduct a dry run for the new trains. The only thing they are afraid of is the increased speed. But the parties are in agreement that what must be done is to reduce the speed a bit so the trial run can be conducted and serve as a viable solution to the Metro Manila traffic problem,” said Sarmiento.

MIRDC official Roberto Dizon said the trains as designed can travel up to 80 kilometers per hour. “But we are limited by the railroad tracks that PNR will be providing us,” he said.

Joseline Geronimo, PNR office-in-charge, said the agencies are in the final stages of finishing a memorandum of agreement on the dry run.

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