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The Improvement of the Philippine Railway System and the Way to Its Sustainability

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English 12
Gerardo Francisco Munarriz II R72
April 7, 2016

The Improvement of the Philippine Railway System and the Way to Its Sustainability

        This is the story of the average Filipino commuter’s life. He waits along the side of the road under the burning hot sun for about thirty minutes, waiting for a jeepney, one of the most basic forms of Philippine commute, to pass by. He finally finds one, with his fellow commuters tightly packed inside it. He rides the vehicle, and sits on the entry steps of the vehicle, as that is the only space where he can be. This begins his one hour journey across the almost gridlocked stretch of road toward another form of commute which he must also ride, the train. Upon arrival at the train station, he either squeezes into a train overloaded with 300 people, or discovers that the MRT, one of the three functioning train lines in the Philippines, has broken down, and that he must now find another way to his destination. This is the daily life of the Philippine commuter.

The condition of the Filipino people’s everyday lives are like so because of the Philippine’s ever growing traffic problem in Metro Manila. There is a big population that needs to travel every day, whether to go to school or work. This, combined with the poor public transportation system of the Philippines, among many other factors, contribute to the problem that is Philippine traffic. Many Filipinos, as well as Philippine companies, struggle because of this, as Filipinos are required to put in extra time and effort in transit due to the current traffic situation. This in turn affects the companies because its employees will have already been worn out by their travel to work, affecting their efficiency and productivity.

        According to the “Global Driver Satisfaction Index” (GDSI) developed by traffic and navigation application Waze, Metro Manila has the worst traffic in the world. This index is from the evaluation of the driving experiences in the 167 metro areas in which Waze users drive. This index is based on traffic level by frequency and severity of traffic jams, road quality and infrastructure, driver safety based on accidents, road hazards and weather, driver services like access to gas stations and easy parking, access to cars and impact of gas prices, and “Wazeyness,” or the level of helpfulness and happiness within the Waze community. Manila scored 0.4 in the GDSI, which has a score range of 1-10, with one being the worst and ten being the best (Hegina).

        The roads of the Philippines are not the only ones which experience extreme congestion. According to an article in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, “Together with the LRT [Light Rail Transit] 2 and Metro Rail Transit Line 3, the three systems serve more than a million people daily. For commuters, adding more trains is a key solution to ease congestion” (Cabacungan And Camus). Based on the statistics, it is evident that the traffic congestion on both the public roads and railways in the Philippines is a big problem, considering the number of people travelling every day.  This paper aims to prove that the Philippines must improve its current railway systems by adding more trains available for public commute and also by improving train management, all in order to improve the country’s efficiency.  It also aims to explain how to make these systems sustainable and easy to maintain in the Philippines.

        The Philippines currently has 3 railway lines in total, consisting of the Light Rail Transit (LRT) System Lines 1 and 2, and the Mass Rail Transit (MRT) Line 3. The MRT has been owned by the private company Metro Rail Transit Company (MRTC). The LRT line 1 has also been privatized last year, when the two companies Ayala Corp. and Metro Pacific Investments Corp. took over its operation (Cabacungan and Camus).

According to the MRT website, the MRT has sixty rail cars in three car trains operating daily, each train able to carry up to 394 commuters under “crush loading conditions.” Crush loading conditions are conditions under rush hour peak times when people need to completely fill up a train, leaving little to no space in between each other. The MRT3 trains can carry 23,000 passengers per hour per direction daily. According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, the MRT line carried 174.5 million passengers in 2012. “Together with the LRT 2 and the Metro Rail Transit Line 3, the three systems [including the LRT 1] serve more than a million people daily” (Cabacungan and Camus).

        Using the MRT has been very difficult for commuters; waiting long periods of time for the delayed MRT trains to arrive at the station. The jam-packed trains make the riding experience uncomfortable, especially with the constant fear that the poorly maintained trains and railways will experience an accident which will result in casualties. A reporter Rigoberto Tiglao from the Manila Times accuses corruption to be the reason for the poor maintenance of the MRT system. As Tiglao says in an article, “The corruption allegedly involving the maintenance of Metro Rail Transit-3 (MRT-3) is the worst kind of graft. It has been directly causing the daily suffering of hundreds of thousands of commuters in metropolitan Manila: queuing for hours to get a ride in its jam-packed trains, risking life and limb with the regular occurrence of accidents and derailments” (Tiglao). These evidences present the fact that the MRT is an inefficient railway due to its lack of capability to service the total number of commuters, as well as its high accident rate.

        In comparison to its Asian neighbors, the quality of transportation and commute in the Philippines does not fare too well. Other countries have better infrastructure plans than us, and thus their people are able to be more productive and efficient due to less travel time.

        Singapore’s well planned transit system caused them to be efficient in their use of resources. Singapore adopted many strategies for its railway systems to improve energy efficiency and make the land transport system sustainable, as well as to reduce the negative impact of the transit system on the environment. Singapore uses the DC traction system for the electrical system because the distances between stations are short, and this system is more advantageous for these conditions. Also, inverters are installed to recover the excess regenerative energy from the braking of trains, wasting as little energy as possible (Thong and Cheong 40). By keeping the train cars light and by using energy efficient lights and cooling systems paired with energy efficient driving (Thong and Cheong 40), Singapore saves money and resources. This allows Singapore to constantly improve their trains with the saved money, resulting in a more efficient train system.

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