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Unusable

This is the final word: the rail cars purchased from Dalian by the previous administration could not be used by the MRT. The specs just don’t match and the heavy trains will probably cause the viaduct to collapse.

It did not require a rocket scientist to figure out the specs and produce the right trains. All that is required is basic engineering knowledge. But the DOTC and their Chinese counterparts flubbed it anyway.

I have been trying not to think about Jun Abaya for months. It aggravates me no end. Now I wish the man and his boss did throw themselves before an onrushing train as they promised to. Doing so would have given all of us some sense of redress.

For months, Abaya kept us at the edge of our seats, teasing us with the impending arrival of the trains he ordered. The prospect meant more trains along the constantly choked Edsa. Spellbound, we thought we were seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, the torture chamber that is the MRT.

When the trains started trickling in, we found out they had no motors and no signaling system. They could not be kicked into service. But we waited and waited, hoping the new trains might soon be refitted and relief at the overloaded commuter line might be forthcoming.

Now we are told the trains really could not be used. On the day this ugly truth was announced, the MRT broke down five times in a day.

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Long before the contract to produce additional trains was signed by Abaya and his Chinese counterparts, we were warned that Dalian is not a light rail manufacturer. True enough, they delivered overweight trains. They were like heavily armored battle tanks mounted on rails. They might sooner crash the system than deliver commuters to their destinations.

Senator Grace Poe says we should now try to return the trains to the faulty manufacturers and try to recover the P3.5 billion or so DOTC paid for those trains. I am not too confident this could happen. The Chinese company will likely take us to litigation and prolong the agony.

Meanwhile the MRT line will remain short of trains and long on queues.  It will take many long years for us to put out a new contract for commuter trains. The hundreds of thousands of commuters who cram the system, endure the long lines, sleep for only three or four hours each night before battling to commute the next day might not live long enough to see new trains on this system.

Abaya, we recall, once shrugged off the traffic problems saying they are not fatal. The hapless commuters wanted to lynch him there and then. What wrong have we committed against the heavens that we were sent this scourge of a public official?

Abaya is also the one responsible for breaking up the contract for the LRT-2 extension to Antipolo. As a result, the viaduct was built without passenger terminals. Now, Marcos highway is congested a second time because of construction work on the terminals. It is hell repeated for residents of the affected areas.

He is likewise the official to blame for the continued absence of a common station. The Arroyo administration rushed to close the loop between the LRT-1 and the MRT lines to ease commuter movement. But the common station was not built. It will remain like that for about three more years.

Now that the “Abaya trains” are junked, what do we do with the man who presided over the “Noynoying” that retarded the onset of an efficient mass transit system in the metropolis?

I know a number of people who are itching to lynch him. But that would constitute extra-judicial killing and the unfunded Commission on Human Rights will frown on that.

Unfortunately, utter incompetence is not a crime listed in the Penal Code. This is why Abaya and his boss continue to roam free.

Privatize

What do we do with the mess that is the MRT?

Experts say the system was wrongly designed from the start. It is not really a light rail system. It is some sort of hybrid between a light rail and a trolley line. This is the reason why the parts of this system do not seem to cohere.

Then, somewhere along the line, the train line was put under the worst possible arrangement: it was owned by private interests but managed by government. Everywhere else, it is the other way around. Government, as the MRT experience heroically demonstrates, is forever a bad manager.

Those Dalian trains should be the last straw. We have to drastically reconfigure this facility for the sake of the hundreds of thousands of commuters who are doomed to use it.

The Metro Pacific group, in what might seem to be a masochistic decision, made an unsolicited offer to buy out the MRT from both its original owners and the government financial institutions that hold 80 percent economic interest in this messy business. The Finance Secretary indicated openness to that offer.

What the doubtful contracts with a string of maintenance service providers and the Abaya trains prove beyond reasonable doubt is that government is simply incapable of efficiently operating this facility and solving all its problems. Government has simply to concede that fact and take the logical next step: sell this whole thing to a private investor willing to stake money in fixing the system.

There is precedent for this. The LRT-1 is now a better system since it was privatized.

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