GENERAL SANTOS CITY—The road train manufactured by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) is taking its third, and probably the last, road test here to push for an acceptable mass-transit system to address the spreading road congestion in the cities.
The 40-meter train, with five coaches, would run in January next year on a six-month “commodatum” agreement with the city government.
Technically the city is borrowing the DOST-designed and fabricated hybrid train to test its public and environmental acceptability based on existing road conditions of the city.
For the next six months, commuters would ride on the train for free as the city and DOST technical team monitor its performance for reliability as a mode of public transport and for adaptability and acceptability to run on existing road networks.
The road train has been tested first in Clark, Pampanga, in 2016 inside the free-port zone, ferrying workers living farther away from the factories and in Cebu City from December 2016 to June 2017.
Depending on the outcome of the road show and test here of the nonrail hybrid road train, the DOST may initiate the formal delegation to the private sector to assemble and manufacture the road train for the rest of the local governments, which would decide to adapt the road train-transit system.
“We might ask them [the LGUs] to come here in General Santos City to see how the train transit system here works,” said Rommel Corona, project staff of the DOST-Metals Industry Research Development Centter Road Train Project.
Technically, the General Santos City road test may already complete the road tests the staff have done on different road conditions in Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao, he added. The Cebu test failed, however, due to the narrow roads of the city.
In this city, the tests have been actually done in the eastward direction going to Barangay Tinagakan, some 14 kilometers from the downtown park, where the hybrid electric train would end and begin each route.
Councilor Dominador S. Lagare Jr., the council chairman of the committee on transportation, said the tests would be done yet on the westward direction going inside the fishport, where an upward sloping portion of the road is found.
“That is why we may ask the DOST to bring in the lighter 30-meter train used in the Clark test to be sure that it can navigate the slope,” he said.
There would be no condition to meet to ask for the second train, he said, like if there would be increased traffic for commuters. “We would ask them anytime, if they would also agree.”
The initial runs target the workers of the fishport in the west, and the workers, farmers, teachers and students in Barangay Tinagakan, “who have been disadvantaged by the lack of jeepneys and tricycles at dawn hours,” Lagare said.
The jeepneys, which are still few here, are up only at 6 a.m., while fishport operations begin at predawn when deep-sea fishing boats also begin arriving and unloading their tuna catch.
To ensure loading capacity, the city has conferred with barangay officials along the route, especially in the eastward side, which is dominantly rural. “Tinagakan has committed 50 passengers, as well as the next other barangays,” Lagare added.
The road train would run only in two round trips early in the morning and two round trips at sundown. It would be parked the rest of the day.
“We would also be looking at how commuter traffic would accumulate along the train stations,” he said. Fifteen stations have been selected already along the entire downtown park-Tinagakan-fishport route.
Tricycle associations have been also consulted and were assigned their roles, mainly in transporting passengers to the specified train stations. “We hope this would avoid conflict and jealousy.”
Besides, he said, the city has about 30,000 tricycles, more than the required 9,000 units allowed in its streets. “We have to do something about the operation of these other tricycles,” he added.
Representatives of the tricycle associations attended the launching of the train last weekend, indicating their cooperation in the test run of the train.
Corona said the train runs on synchronized moving wheels, discarding the previously designed two-coach train running on a guideway, or rail, similar to a light-rail train. It operates on 50-block layer of 12 volts each block for each coach, or a total of 3,000 volts.
Solar panels may be installed on the roof, above the air-conditioning units. Corona said having these other alternative energy sources may help reduce the electricity charging requirement. He said the batteries are also designed to auto-recharge on each stop.
Science Secretary Fortunato T. de la Pena said he hoped City Mayor Ronnel Rivera’s vision would come true “to inspire other cities, and even the other Asean [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] countries would be inspired to copy the move of GenSan.”
“That is exactly what we also want to happen: for the other cities to adapt to the new mode of alternative, nonpollutive mass-transport system,” he said.
Rivera told the launching ceremony that he had no qualms at adapting the new mode, saying he wanted to trailblaze in the transport system if only to address the traffic congestion now plaguing all cities in the country.