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Reprofiling rails in situ not right solution to rail fractures

01:20 AM May 11, 2015

THE FREQUENCY of train interruptions due to rail fractures is no longer something that the Department of Transportation and Communications can just ignore with the promise that remedial measures will be undertaken and with the assurance that the trains are still safe. The promise and assurance may be true, but the disruption in the schedules of the commuting public is causing losses worth millions of pesos in man-hours. When will the DOTC act on the problem? When the trains are about ready to fall down from the viaducts?

I do believe that the DOTC has not figured out what the problem is. Consider that MRT-3 started operations in 1999 and since then countless commuter trains, most of them overloaded, have passed over the 15-year-old rails, with each train stressing the rails beyond their design load limits and hastening their deterioration. The increasing number of rail failures indicates that metal fatigue has set in. As a solution the DOTC is planning to acquire a rail grinding machine. Grinding the rails and reprofiling it in situ will not resolve their weakness.

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The obvious solution is, of course, total rail renewal or the replacement of all the rails with new ones. This will be an expensive undertaking but in the long run it will prove to be cost-effective. Train interruptions will be minimized resulting in increased revenues while reducing operating and maintenance costs. Moreover, there will be economic benefits like time savings due to reduced travel time. More importantly the “bosses” will be satisfied!

Repairing the tracks should have been the first priority of the DOTC when it took over the operations and maintenance of MRT-3, not the acquisition of new rolling stock. The funds that have been appropriated for the acquisition of new trains should have been diverted to track renewal, for what good will those new trains be if the rails continue to fracture? Possibly, questions will be raised as to the accounting consideration of the cost of rail renewal. Is it a maintenance cost hence chargeable to the DOTC or a capital expenditure in which case should be borne by the MRT-3 owner, which is Metro Rail Transit Corp.? However it may be treated, there is no denying that the gravity of the situation demands that the government act—now.

FEATURED STORIES
OPINION

RAMON J. JIMENEZ,

[email protected]

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