Editorial & Opinion

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Has anyone been spared the terror of the gridlock in the metropolis - a huge mass of vehicles on a highway or even just a street, heaving and snorting but getting nowhere? It has become a fairly frequent occurrence, foreshadowing the ultimate urban blight: carmageddon.


Road traffic, how grievous it has become, is now part of the everyday lament. For example, the 24-kilometer Edsa was intended to handle 320,000 vehicles a day but is packed with double that number, according to Metropolitan Manila Development Authority estimates.

The sheer number of vehicles (including those double-parked even on narrow streets), drivers apparently gone insane and perversely counter-flowing or blocking intersections, instant floods and disappearing traffic enforcers have resulted not only in sky-high stress levels but also in the waste of work hours: in the reckoning of Japanese experts, a daily loss of P2.4 billion. Mass public transport is a mess, with the MRT/LRT overtaxed and falling to pieces.

Comes now the Metals Industry Research and Development Center of the Department of Science and Technology (MIRDC-DOST), with its amazing diesel-electric road train that can move as many as 650,000 passengers per day. What a boost it can be to the public transport system and the general objective of helping reduce the number of vehicles on the streets.

The MIRDC-DOST had been tasked with thinking up an alternative urban mass transit system that would lessen stress on the environment and not put further pressure on the clogged road system, according to a report by the Inquirer’s Charles Buban. It took the agency three years and P45 million to come up with that alternative, which now shines as a bright prospect.

Here’s science research specialist Christian Ibañez on the “hybrid” project: “Just like a train, it has a total of five coaches, is 40 meters long and can accommodate up to 240 passengers. But like a bus, [it] moves on wheels.” It has a hybrid system that combines a gasoline-fed engine and a battery-powered electric motor. Each coach can carry 60 persons.

“When the DOST road train slows down or coasts downhill, the electric motors go into reverse. The electricity that is produced is stored back into the batteries. If battery charge is still low or when more power is needed, the diesel engine paired to the 300 kVA (kilovolt-ampere) generator kicks in to supply more power. With the technology that we have installed, emissions are significantly lower,” Ibañez explains.

Instead of elaborate infrastructure to get it going, the road train will require only the designation of a dedicated lane on Edsa, much like the ones the buses are supposed to use today, and the expansion of existing bus stations to accommodate it.

Aside from being a sensible and doable proposition, the road train is a product of Filipino scientists who have more than once proved that they are no slouch in inventions, research discoveries, high-tech achievements and such. Ibañez says the road train’s parts (generators, body and wheels) and technology (regenerative braking system and hybrid drive train) are locally developed and sourced, meaning the 40-meter, five-coach beauty can be maintained and serviced locally. Interested parties need only to acquire the patents from the MIRDC-DOST.

The road train was taken on a test run at the Clark free port in Pampanga before it became the most-talked-about exhibit during the recent National Science and Technology Week at the SMX Exhibition Center in Pasay City. The yearly National Science and Technology Week was the perfect showcase for the hybrid wonder as the event highlighted the Filipino genius in science and technology.


Who will turn this proudly-Philippine-made prototype into a working, practical reality? (According to Ibañez, the price will be much lower than the P45 million spent to conceive of and complete it, and MIRDC engineers need only six months to build it.) It would be great if this “science project” from the Philippines’ best and brightest manages to help solve the daily ordeal that is the Metro traffic. Inquirer.net

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