THE Transportation department said Tuesday that the operating speed and capacity of trains on Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT-3) is expected to increase to 60 kilometers per hour (kph) from the current 30 kph by December with the completion of rail replacement works by September.

In a statement, the Department of Transportation (DoTr) said the new completion date is “several months ahead of its February 2021 target.”

“The rail line has fast-tracked its rehabilitation works amid the implementation of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Luzon,” the department said.

It said the operating speed of the MRT-3’s trains, once all rail replacement works are completed, will increase gradually “from the current 30 kph to 40 kph by October, 50 kph by November, and 60 kph by December.”

“The increased speed will translate to (reduced) headway, or waiting time between trains, from the current 8.5 minutes down to 3.5 minutes. Together, with the increase in operational trains from the current 15 up to 20, MRT-3’s capacity is expected to double from the current 300,000 to 600,000 passengers per day,” the department explained.

MRT-3 service providers Sumitomo Corp., Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Engineering Ltd., and TES Philippines, Inc. (Sumitomo-MHI-TESP) have been contracted to overhaul all 72 Light Rail Vehicles.

The contractors are also to replace all mainline tracks, rehabilitate power and overhead catenary systems, upgrade signaling, communications and CCTV systems, and repair all escalators and elevators.

MRT-3 ticket sales fell 7.7% to P1.91 billion last year while ridership on the line, which runs between Baclaran and North Ave., dropped 7.1% to 96.93 million, according to the DoTr.

In 2017, ridership was 140.15 million, up 4.6%, while ticket sales hit P2.78 billion, up 3.7%. — Arjay L. Balinbin