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Manila Light Rail, Philippines




Key Data


Development of light rail lines in the Philippine capital of Manila is being carried out with the aim of reducing acute road congestion on the city's busiest corridors by the year 2015.

The city's population is expected to soar to around 18 million by then, and rail-borne urban transit is a key to the drive to reduce air pollution. From 12,000 passengers a day when it opened in December 1984, the light rail system peaked at 450,000 in August 1994, and is currently around 300,000.

Management, originally under Belgian influence, has undergone many changes and a contract from 2003 was let to a Franco-Phillipines consortium called Genials-SKI-PKI. More lines are planned.

The project

Congestion was recognised as a problem as early as 1966 when an abortive attempt was made to install a monorail system. The formation of the LRTA in 1980 paved the way for light rail, greatly assisted by a 30-year, interest-free loan of PHP300m from the Belgian government. The network continues to develop and the three lines either in operation or under construction are being extended as finances permit.

Line 1, from Central Terminal to Baclaran, was completed in 1984 and extended across the Pasig river in 1985 to create a 15km (10.4 mile) system with 18 stations. Very heavy use led to a rapid deterioration in the condition of track and rolling stock, and a major refurbishment was carried out between 1992–99 to upgrade the system and increase capacity by 50% (27,000 passengers per hour at peak times).

Phase two is a 5.5km extension with three additional stations, reaching the cities of Parañaque and Las Piñas and the adjoining municipalities of Bacoor, Imus and Dasmariñas in Cavite province. There will be provision for a future continuation of the line to Imus and Dasmariñas.

In 2007 construction on the $120m northern extension of Line 1 from Monumento to North Avenue began. It will be completed in February 2010. Southern extension to Cavite is underway. The northbound extension project was awarded to a consortium led by DM Consunji.

"From 12,000 passengers a day when it opened in December 1984, the light rail system peaked at 450,000 in August 1994, and is currently around 300,000."

In 2009, the cost of the proposed southbound extension of Line 1 was increased to $1.78bn from $683m. The southbound development project will extend Line 1 by 11.7km. Out of 11.7km, 10.5km will be elevated while 1.2km will be at-grade.

The extension project will also include construction of eight new passenger stations. The project is expected to reduce travel time from Bacoor to Monumento, Caloocan City and provide services to 800,000 travellers.

Line 2, also known as Megatren or Purple Line extends from Manila in the west via Quezon City to Pasig in the east. The entire line is elevated except at Katipunan station. The construction of the 13.8km line began in 1998 and runs between Recto Ave, Magsaysay Blvd and Aurora Blvd. In 2005, it was connected to Line 1 (Yellow Line) by a footbridge.

Out of numerical sequence, the 17km (10.5 mile) eastern orbital Line 3 (known as Metrostar Express) was opened in 1999 and extended in 2000. Another extension to Monumento, mostly on elevation, adds 5.5km (3.4 miles) and increases the number of stations by three to 16. The construction contract has included delivery of track, signalling and communications equipment, power supply, stations, the new LRVs and maintenance facilities.

The 22km (13.7 mile) Metro Rail Transit Line 7 running from Tala in Novaliches to Fairview and Commonwealth Avenue is also underway. The line crosses Line 3 in North Avenue. The new line will cost $1.2bn and the Department of Finance is reviewing the project to make sure it is deficit neutral.

Rolling stock

The system is powered at 750V DC from overhead lines. The original rolling stock fleet for Line 1 consisted of 21 double-articulated car sets built by BN, a division of Bombardier Eurorail. Heavy refurbishment has been carried out to replace defective components, arrest corrosion and refit the interiors. New centre vehicles have been added to increase train lengths to three cars and seven new four-car units were procured in 1999.

As many as 28 new LRVs were delivered to operate on the new lines, built by CKD Tatra of the Czech Republic with civil engineering contracted to Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

Each articulated vehicle is in three sections, each section being mounted on a bogie with the two end bogies powered. The low floor is just 350mm above the rail top and runs for almost two-thirds of the length of each train.

The trains have a maximum speed of 80km/h (50mph) but only half of this is achieved. Braking is by a combination of regenerative and resistor brakes. Under normal loading, each vehicle can carry up to 46 seated passengers and a further 158 standing, but in maximum "crush" conditions up to 271 standing passengers can be accommodated.

In December 2006 the first new four-car train for the upgrading of Line 1 arrived. A total of 12 new trains are being delivered and, in mid-December, 40 of the order for 48 cars had already arrived on the system.

The Metro Rail Transit Authority, which operates Line 3, is planning to acquire additional trains to assist the Metrostar fleet which is now carrying 450,000 passengers per day – 100,000 more than they were designed for. Second hand vehicles from Germany and Austria are being investigated, with a total of 48 units required.

Signalling /communications

The system runs 17 hours daily, with peak headways of 190 seconds. All trains are single-manned and fitted with automatic speed regulation equipment. Brakes, too, are automatically set. The new train fleet includes interior destination information displays and driver-to-base communication.

"There is concern that many sections of line and stations are seriously overstretched and capacity improvements are ongoing."

Automatic fare collection, using recyclable magnetic tickets, was introduced in September 2001.

The future

There is concern that many sections of line and stations are seriously overstretched and capacity improvements are an ongoing project. Line 1, for example, is being widened and resignalled to cope with 40,000 passengers per hour in the peak compared the initial 18,000 design figure.

Longer-term plans, subject to the attraction of interest from the private sector, involve building three more lines. These would extend the system eastwards from the existing north terminal and open up other parts of the east of the country to light rail.

Disappointment was expressed in the early passenger figures for Line 3 (Quezon City to Makati) after it initially attracted fewer than 45,000 passengers per day. High fares and the long flights of stairs leading to the elevated stations were given as the main reasons for its slow start.

The government's Department of Transport & Communications has to earn PHP5,300m per year to service its debts and cover operating costs to meet the costs of leasing the system from the private MRT corporation.

The first of the Praha-built LRVs is despatched to the Philippines via a Russian heavy-lift aircraft.
Twenty-eight new LRVs are being delivered to operate on the new lines. The new LRV fleet is being built by CKD Tatra of the Czech Republic, with civil engineering contracted to Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.
The tram's two + one seating configuration and low-floor section are apparent in this view.
One of the new Manila LRT vehicles.
The light rail vehicles under construction at the Hyundai plant.