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Editorial

Do something about MRT3 now

/ 05:28 AM January 04, 2018

Enough is enough. Commuters using Metro Rail Transit 3 (MRT3) have agonized so much for so long.

The government must do something about the almost-daily breakdowns, and quick. MRT3 has become the opposite of what it was intended to be — a convenient commuter service to avoid the vehicular traffic jam on the main Edsa thoroughfare.

On the last day of 2017, MRT3 suffered yet another glitch, forcing it to unload nearly 2,000 passengers taking the southbound route.It stopped operations due to problems with its signaling system, which controls the movement of trains through railway signals to prevent collision.

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This service interruption occurred a day after MRT3 unloaded 200 passengers an hour before they were supposed to get free rides to commemorate the Dec. 30 martyrdom of National Hero Jose Rizal.

In a statement, MRT3 management blamed “worn-out electrical subcomponents” for the trouble.

How many times were MRT3’s operations disrupted and passengers unloaded for the entire year? The total is 450 — equivalent to a breakdown of more than once a day.

This dismal record was 19 percent worse than the 379 times that passengers were unloaded in 2016, according to records of the rail line, which ferries an average of 463,000 people every day.

Aside from the frequent disruptions, MRT3’s operations in 2017 were marred by a “decoupling” in late November; fortunately, no one was hurt after the last coach of the train separated from the two others on the northbound line between Ayala and Buendia

stations.

On the first day of 2018, MRT3 was not glitch-free. The new year greeted passengers with yet another problem. MRT3 on Jan. 1 offloaded 300 southbound commuters at Guadalupe station due to an “electrical failure” caused by “worn out electrical subcomponents,” according to a government advisory.

The Department of Transportation has always cited the lack of available spare parts as one reason for the system’s frequent breakdowns.

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This was also one of the factors behind the termination of the contract with the maintenance provider, Busan Universal Rail Inc., last November.

The government has since taken over the train’s maintenance, but services remain poor.

The DOTr also announced that it has awarded contracts for the supply of spare parts needed by MRT3, but many of those will arrive in the next three months.

And despite the commitment of its suppliers “to exert best efforts to deliver earlier than the prescribed contractual lead times,” these spare parts will only be band-aid solutions to a far bigger issue regarding MRT3.

Maintenance is just one aspect of the entire mess. Yes, the signaling system, tracks and rolling stock need to be well-maintained. However, the current fleet of 73 Czech-made trains is not enough for the volume of passengers using MRT3.

There are actually 48 Chinese-made trains that remain unused, which the DOTr said it would audit and assess. For what, it did not say. The DOTr should focus on how best to put these trains in service in the soonest time possible.

The DOTr is also finalizing an official development assistance agreement with Japan for MRT3’s rehabilitation and maintenance.

The Philippines and Japan are expected to exchange notes verbale this week, and the DOTr and railway engineers from the Japan International Cooperation Agency would then conduct a due-diligence study of MRT3 until April “to clearly identify the needed rehabilitation works.”

This means the actual maintenance work will come after that.

Yet there are offers on the table from private-sector groups that the government can look at closely.

Besides, there should be a way to untangle the convoluted ownership structure of the company that owns MRT3 and pave the way for its sale to a more competent entity that can rehabilitate and operate it more efficiently.

Commuters have suffered long enough. The government cannot delay a decision on the MRT3 issue any longer. The government owes this much to the weary, taxpaying workers who rely on MRT3 to take them to work and back home.

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TAGS: Department of Transportation, DOTr, Inquirer editorial, MRT glitches, MRT-3
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