Close to Collapse

Munich subway GBRis what Munich’s underground is according to a local paper (link). It is “not that bad” (link) Harry Roque might say if he rode here, as the elevators and escalators mostly work. Meaning that among 100 underground stations in 100 km. of underground, a non-working escalator is pretty rare. Yet people do crowd a bit more recently. The reason is that some new wagons don’t work yet (link). Haha, in Germany? Yes, from Siemens. Wagons of the C2 series from Siemens that look space age. While the quaint 1970s style old wagons keep on going it seems. What is happening over here?

Voltage spikes and squared wheels


Munich U-Bahn after a soccer game

Well, the electrical transmission of the C2 series seems to generate voltage spikes that could cause the trains to stop or even damage the electrical systems of the Munich U-Bahn or underground. They are in the yards for maintenance, while the old wagons are stretched thin. People are not yet waiting up to the streets though like in Metro Manila. That only happens during the Oktoberfest. Then, extra staff make sure drunk people don’t push each other onto the rails. Central Europeans – which Bavarians are – are not as patient in waiting as Filipinos. And tend to like their own space.

What also happened according to a speaker of the MVG or Munich Transport Corporation is that when autumn came in, the sludge from rain and autumn leaves on some overground stations (yes, the underground also has stations above ground) caused “squaring” of wheels while braking. Making train wheels round again is specialized metalworking. Took some work in depot to get the wagons back into full function. Good thing, even if there was some inconvenience for everyone, as I can imagine the damage squared wheels can do to rails. Or voltage spikes to transmission systems.

Politics and colors over here

Well, is the Reichstag in Berlin discussing this under its modern dome? Is the Maximilianeum (link) in Munich, the Parliament of the Free State of Bavaria, going up in (self-)righteous anger? After all, the ruling party there is different from the ruling party in Munich city hall, so why not? Strangely it is a party that is not ruling that seems to make occasional comments about the SPD or Social Democrats, whose friends in the Philippines are Akbayan. It is the FDP or Liberals or if one wants yellow color – same party whose Naumann Foundation invited VP Leni to South Africa.

But one only knows that if one reads a bit deeper in some papers. No buzz in social media. If ever people are mad at yellow, it is at the OBikes (link) from Singapore which anyone can book and use via simple App. Tourists and others just leave them all over the place. And conveniently, they are of the color some Bavarians will think all Asians are – yellow. Yellow and Chinese, or maybe Japanese. You are only Japanese though if you take pictures of the central square, the Marienplatz, in spring. Now you finally know why Irineo sees the world so differently. I am on the other side, so to speak.

It was not long ago

Munich subway Goetheplatz

Munich’s oldest underground station today

In fact, I am red. Red as in Bayern München, not DDS. More a sympathizer than a fan or a diehard. Reds crowd the very same U-Bahn wagons – or underground trains – as commuters crowd daily when there is a game up in the Allianz Arena. The plans for the a north-south line were really old. Goetheplatz station was finished between 1938 and 1941 (link). The regime behind that probably never said “Bauen, Bauen, Bauen” (Build, Build, Build) as it sounds too much like barking, even if the one who shouted a lot did not come from the Bavarian Forest, where some say people “bark”.

The war stopped the project. Goetheplatz station and the tunnel to Sendlinger Tor were made part of the new underground lines built for the 1972 Olympics. Until now, Goetheplatz station is a little bit longer than the standard full underground train, as it was planned for another kind of wagons. And the design is more similar to Berlin underground stations built before the war. More cramped, and not always with escalators. The modern norm is deeper and with escalators always, often with elevators for PWDs, mothers with children and bikes. I don’t know if yellow OBikes are allowed.

Almost yesterday

Karte der S-Bahn München

The Munich suburban train network

another system in Munich was the subject of complaints. The Munich S-Bahn or suburban train. 150 stations and 434 kilometers into the suburbs of Munich. The trunk line or Stammstrecke (line) was also built for the 1972 Olympics. That was a Build, Build, Build period – without dictatorship. Half of Munich, especially the Marienplatz where U-Bahn and S-Bahn lines converge in a common station under the city hall, was excavated or tunneled then. No space for Japanese to make fotos. But then again, it is mostly the S-Bahn or U-Bahn that brings them there, escalators bring them up.

Almost yesterday is a decade ago or more. I don’t even remember the exact years when the S-Bahn was catastrophic as I lived outside town then – it only affected me when I went in on weekends. Frequent delays. Often the signalling systems at the Ostbahnhof (Eastern train station) got stuck. Electrical and signalling systems in the trunk line, the busiest train route in Germany they say, had to be renovated step by step as they had aged since the early 1970s. There was a time, I think an entire year, where the S-Bahn trunk line was closed for entire weekends – technical overhaul.

Some were bothered

Bothered me a bit coming from outside, as I had to switch to the yet seemingly perfect U-Bahn when I rode into the city. But new rails, signalling systems and more improved the S-Bahn. Meanwhile, the U-Bahn increased stations, covering more and more of the city, always having interoperability in mind – with the S-Bahn which belongs to the Deutsche Bahn or German railways, and of course with busses and trams, which together with the U-Bahn all belong to the MVG (Münchner Verkehrsgesellschaft / Munich Transport corporation) which is city-owned.

I have heard that Günther Beckstein (link) used to take the tram 19 to work in the Maximilaneum. Very probable during the time he was in the parliament, even when he was Bavarian Interior Minister. It is a beautiful ride which I won’t tell the Japanese about, passing historical monuments. Used to be the main ride between the East and the West of Munich, before the S-Bahn was built. Now a second Stammstrecke is being built to increase capacity, get the suburbs connected better. This goes until 2026, work has started. Even if it may get delayed, I think it will never just stop.

Tram München - Baureihen P, R und S - Betriebshof Einsteinstraße - April 2014

Tram depot Einsteinstraße with different generations of wagons

Why should it stop? And why should relatively young systems like the Munich U- and S-Bahn fall apart. What is 1972? 45 years ago. Berlin has really old systems. A major line of the Berlin S-Bahn had to be closed for MONTHS, also about a decade or so ago for complete overhaul. Under the management of Communist East Berlin, the citywide system had rotted. Not as much as New York (link) it seems which is of similar vintage. How Filipinos lost the late 19th century Spanish railway to Dagupan, the 1930s railway to Legazpi and may lose the MRT is another story. A sadder one.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 24 November 2017



Free Tertiary Education

Gearbox (Autocar Handbook, 13th ed, 1935) HUis a milestone for the Philippines – something I did not expect. Kudos to Senator Bam Aquino. Thanks to the others who had the sense not to torpedo it. Inspite of Aquino. The Philippine educational system may soon be able to produce the right kind of people for every level, thanks to having K-12 as well. You don’t only need the high-level theoreticians and academics. They are needed, but you need the other levels to distill the theory into useful practice – engineers, managers – and skilled workers.

Different skill levels are needed

K-12 was luckily not grounded by President Duterte, neither was K-12+ which is the special pilot project in cooperation with Germany. Yes, it produces skilled workers for German firms in the Philippines. Leftists, please protest. Call them exploiters. Do you prefer to have people in sweatshop jobs, begging for houses like Kadamay? Even the Russians knew how to build an industrial landscape within just a generation. The Chinese needed two, but Filipino leftists are for the most part I think too stupid for that.

Bavaria where I live has Fachhochschulen or Polytechnic Universities in unlikely places like Deggendorf, Rosenheim or Regensburg. I know some excellent IT people from these polytechnics, people of relatively humble peasant origins. Bavaria was a mainly agricultural state back in 1945. One level “below” engineers you have technicians. On the job training, the German dual system called Lehre – or the K-12 TVET or K-12+ which are similar – makes for highly skilled workers. Industries need these people.

Examples of tropical countries that excel

Or what would BMW in Munich be without all the levels of people in it? Or MBB in Hamburg, which had Indonesia’s Dr. Habibie in a leading position (link)? Finally, it was Habibie who was among those who got companies like Indonesian Aerospace (link) off the ground. Off course they geared up essential skills by building planes in license for MBB and the Spanish CASA which also once started off subcontracting for German firms – and is now part of Airbus Military, building the A-400M (link).

Of course the capability to build airplanes is a test of how an economy is able to get people to work together productively – something Filipinos still need to learn – FAST. Even Brazil has its own airplane manufacturer – Embraer – and I can attest to their planes being good. Or add to Indonesia and Brazil the space program of India to show that mastery of own complex industries is not something people in tropical zones cannot do. It is not just Europeans, North Americans and North Asians who can excel.

Working with the right partners

Will China ever help the Philippines jump-start anything industrially the way the German MBB and Spanish Casa, both Airbus now, did for Indonesia Aerospace? First of all, the country has to have the will to get started, nobody will spoon feed you. Filipino old-school leftists, stop complaining about exploitation, that is an old story. Second, the senior partner has to respect you. Germany respected Dr. Habibie, a former MBB VP. And Chinese often look down on brown Southeast Asians, that is well known.

Japan has been a good partner to the Philippines after the war. I even believe that neighbors like Indonesia and Vietnam would work together well with Filipinos. All that Filipinos have to do is shed their notorious prima donna mentality at all levels – with one another and especially towards fellow Asians. I do not really wonder why Rizal placed the Biblical quote “vanity, all is vanity” on the cover of El Fili. Modesty, and decades of quiet work bring results. Not jumping for Beijing loans and flattery.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 5. August 2017

Being Truly Modern

BMW 531 1951 01

1950s BMW

Recent issues with the MRT3 – and recent DOST developments – show the struggle for modernity in the Philippines. For a long time, modernity was defined by its outward trappings, not by real modernity. I shall expound on this.

Outward progress

Some Filipinos tried to tell me how progressive the Philippines – or Makati – was with arguments like this:

  • Hollywood movies arrived in Germany months after they were already shown in Manila
  • Fax machines were used more extensively in Makati before most German offices used them
  • The Internet was used more extensively by the same crowd before it was widely used in Germany

And yes, cell phones were more widely used by Filipinos before Germans used them. The skyline of Makati is definitely more impressive than that of Munich or even Frankfurt. All true, but:

  • Hollywood movies used to arrive in Germany later because of dubbing into German done in Berlin. This is done synchronously now, so no more delay.
  • What is the use of being first in using the Internet if it is slow? Germans – and Swiss even much more – are typical late adopters who want things done properly.
  • Anybody can buy cell phones. But Germany is a country that builds a lot of the equipment used for telecoms networks. Siemens dropped out of cellphones at some point.
  • The difference between what someone in a German village and one of the big cities – not only Berlin – can get is not so big. Makati is highly modern, some other places too, but the rest?
  • Kudos to the largest malls in the world in the Philippines. But how about the public spaces in the cities? Philippine malls are a replacement for other failings in making public spaces livable.

Some Filipinos with money might buy a BMW first and possibly on credit. A German will probably first see to it that he or she has a proper washing machine – or go on vacation to Spain, after saving money. These is where the two mentalities diverge, even if some among the young generation in Germany tend to be more consumerist and get into debt compared to the older ones.

Attempted progress

MRT-3 Kamuning Station Platform 3

MRT-3 Kamuning Station

The MRT-3 stands as a testimony to attempted progress. There are a number of major mistakes that were made from the very beginning:

  • Too small coaches, equivalent to smaller subway lines or trams in Europe. Not enough to truly replace buses on EDSA, or absorb most of the people travelling there.
  • Maintenance, operation and supplies seem to not have been planned properly planned by contractors. Rails were “borrowed” from LRT1, coaches and engines not there on time.
  • Stations are not extendable for bigger coaches, meaning the system cannot grow to accomodate additional needs. And not suited to managing the crowds that use the system.
  • Hardly any local capability was built to be able to make own simple spare parts like metal wheels, rails, or even coaches. Inspite of local capabilities in making bus bodies.
  • The interfaces to other transport systems and to major buildings are catastrophic to say the least. LRT1 and LRT2 at least have a common station for interchange in Manila.

Practically everything was done wrong here, and the present administration has a mess to sort out. Even if one wants quick wins, it does not mean that one should go quick and dirty. One should always try to make sure that one can upgrade, especially if the upgrades are foreseeable. It just takes some common sense. Bus rapid transit proposals were ignored, even if they could have been quick wins, and cities worldwide show their success.

Real progress


DOST AGT, Bicutan (source: DOST)

There are examples for real progress that have taken place recently: the DOST AGT, the DOST Roadtrain, the Diwata satellite completely constructed by DOST to be launched by the USA. All of these examples work by the following principles that have made real progress possible, and made developed countries successful:

  • Don’t live beyond your means. DOST AGT uses concrete elevated rails, not metal rails, because these are as yet still hard to manufacture in the Philippines. It uses rubber tires, because they are easy to procure in the Philippines. It uses existing capabilities from local bus body manufacturing.
  • Develop own capabilities. DOST AGT and DOST Roadtrain use metal working capabilities developed by the Metals Industry Research and Development Center. Only buying other people’s stuff means you are dependent forever, while own local capabilities can be built upon. You will always have to buy some stuff elsewhere – even Germany does. But have enough of your own.
  • Don’t rely too much on the private sector. They are good when it comes to bringing prototypes to production, putting up running systems and of course also making money out them. Of course large industrial companies have research and development, but in a newly industrializing country like the Philippines, one cannot expect too much in terms of their investment.

Japanese cars in the 1950s did not amount to much, neither did BMWs from the 1950s. But unlike the Filipino jeepney, they were developed into more. Building the capabilities needed for a truly modern country – which include mindsets such as thinking of maintenance, operation and supplies – takes time. Filipinos can be fast learners. If they want to be – and are not hard-headed.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 10 January 2016