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More woes for commuters: Only 8 MRT trains operational

STAR/File photo

MANILA, Philippines - Metro Rail Transit (MRT-3) commuters were affected anew after only eight trains were reportedly operational at rush hour yesterday morning, an official said.

APT Global spokesperson Bing Zaide said they prepared 15 trains for deployment at the MRT-3 depot in North Triangle, Quezon City, but some trains were either pulled out or were not allowed to run.

APT Global is the service provider of the MRT.

When asked who decided to pull out the trains, Zaide said: “It is the decision of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) whether to deploy the trains or not.”

Officials of the MRT were not present when the incident happened.

MRT general manager Roman Buenafe, who switched off his cellular phone, was at a seminar.

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His staff, who refused to disclose details of Buenafe’s seminar, said he is expected to report either tomorrow or Thursday.

MRT director for operations Renato San Jose, whose cellular phone has been declining calls, was at a “luncheon meeting,” according to his staff.

Meanwhile, Zaide belied reports that only eight trains were operational yesterday, saying that 15 trains were prepared but only 12 allowed to operate.

“It is not true that only eight trains were operational. At a given time, there were eight, but we have prepared 15 trains and as far as I know, 12 trains were deployed by the MRT yesterday morning,” he told The STAR.

The three trains had a low level of refrigerants, a non-functional backlight and a stuck-up door, he said.

Zaide said the train’s door defect was only discovered while it was already in operation.

“It was pulled out because it has to be repaired. If it was still allowed to operate, it could be dangerous to the passengers, especially at night. But it immediately went back to operation after,” he said.

Zaide said the problems experienced by the MRT yesterday can be considered as “minor setbacks.”

Multi-disciplinary contract

To address the long queues at the MRT-3 along EDSA, the DOTC is looking at awarding a multi-disciplinary contract covering several components next month.

Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya yesterday said the agency is set to award a P342million contract covering six months for the operation and maintenance of the congested mass transit system.

“We are awarding a multi-discipline contract for six months in June since the month-on-month contract is no longer feasible,” Abaya said in a press conference.

The DOTC chief said the contract covers seven components including rolling stock, power supply, tracks and permanent ways, automated fare collection system, communications, building facilities and equipment, and conveyance.

According to Abaya, APT Global has only been deploying eight to 10 trains instead of the required 20 trains during rush hour. The waiting time for trains was extended to 10 minutes instead of the regular four minutes.

MRT-3 started operating in 1999 with a design capacity of 350,000 passengers per day but now carries close to 600,0000 passengers per day. The mass transit system has 13 stations stretching 16.7 kilometers along EDSA from Taft Avenue to North Avenue in Quezon City.

Abaya said the prototype train from Dalian Locomotive and Rolling Stock of China would be delivered in August as part of a P3.8-billion contract involving the supply of 48 brand new light rail vehicles to ensure the arrival of trains every 2.5 minutes.

The mass transit system has been hampered by a series of breakdowns caused by broken rails and defective signaling system, among others. Several groups including infrastructure giant Metro Pacific Investments Corp. and a German-Filipino consortium have offered to upgrade the operations of MRT-3, but their proposals have not been acted upon. – With Lawrence Agcaoili

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