Recognizing that maintenance works are no longer sufficient to serve the 500,000 passengers taking the MRT-3 daily, Timothy Batan, assistant secretary for railways in the DOTr, said the government has come up with a strategy to improve the train system.Michael Varcas, File

DOTr seeks new firm for MRT-3 maintenance
Louella Desiderio (The Philippine Star) - December 30, 2017 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Transportation (DOTr) wants to get a new firm for the maintenance and rehabilitation of the metro’s train system to start as early as April next year to restore the reliability of the system which continues to suffer from frequent breakdowns.

Recognizing that maintenance works are no longer sufficient to serve the 500,000 passengers taking the MRT-3 daily, Timothy Batan, assistant secretary for railways in the DOTr, said the government has come up with a strategy to improve the train system.

He said part of the strategy is to install a new company which would be responsible not just for the maintenance of the railway, but also for the rehabilitation works as well, by the second quarter of next year.

“We are expecting that the new provider can already start the maintenance and rehabilitation of  MRT-3 as early as April or May 2018,” he said.

To get a new maintenance and repair provider for the MRT-3, the government held discussions with development partners Japan, Singapore and France to explore available options.

So far, discussions with Japan have progressed and a government-to-government (G2G) agreement, which would pave the way to tap services of a new firm to provide the maintenance and rehabilitation works of the MRT-3, should have been signed before the year ends.

Following the signing of the G2G agreement, the government intends to bring in a new maintenance and rehabilitation service contractor for the train system for an indicative period of three years.

“After the G2G signing, the new maintenance and rehabilitation services provider will review the condition of the system,” Batan said.

The government is looking at a three-year contract for the service provider as this was the indicative term needed for the rehabilitation and restoration works for the train system.

Underinvestment in preventive and renewal works in the past resulted in the current sorry state of the MRT-3.

From Dec.2 to 21, the MRT-3 had around 20 passenger-unloading incidents due to various reasons including electrical failure of motor, error in the automatic train protection or the system which monitors actual train speed and compatibility with permitted speed allowed by signaling, as well as door failure.

On some days, passenger unloading incidents would happen more than once.

For the new company which will provide the maintenance and rehabilitation of the MRT-3,  Batan said the joint venture of Sumitomo Corp. and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries is being considered as it was involved with the train system in the past.

The consortium designed and built the train system, and was responsible for the maintenance of the MRT-3 from 2000 to 2012.

As it looks to begin the rehabilitation of the MRT-3, the DOTr said a temporary shut down of the train system operations remains an option.

DOTr’s plan to make improvements on the MRT-3 also includes having a company responsible for the operations and maintenance of the train system in the long-term.

Metro Pacific Light Rail Corp., a unit of infrastructure giant Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC), has submitted a proposal to rehabilitate, as well as operate and maintain the MRT-3.

Under the proposal, the firm would invest P12.5 billion for the rehabilitation of the train system.

Transport Secretary Arthur Tugade said earlier the government has granted original proponent status to MPIC.

The OPS means MPIC would have the right to match the best offer given by another group for the project under a Swiss challenge.

The DOTr has said MPIC’s proposal would soon be endorsed to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) for approval.

For now, the MRT-3’s maintenance is being handled by a team set up by the DOTr after it terminated the contract with Busan Universal Rail Inc. (BURI) in November.

The DOTr cited poor performance as the reason for the termination of BURI’s contract, given the derailment, passenger unloading incidents and stoppages of the MRT-3.

It also said BURI failed to procure the spare parts for the train system which affected its ability to undertake immediate repairs on defective trains and other facilities of the MRT-3.

BURI, however, said it was not remiss in its obligations.

BURI spokesperson Charles Mercado said the firm was also able to increase the number of running trains to 22 from 13, when it just started to handle the maintenance of the MRT-3.

The firm was also able to recognize the need for rehabilitation of the MRT-3 when it took over the maintenance of the train system in January 2016 after it was awarded the P3.81-billion contract by the then Department of Transportation and Communications through a negotiated or alternative mode of procurement approved by the Government Procurement Policy Board.

The government resorted to an alternative mode of procurement as attempts to conduct a bidding for the contract in September 2014 and January 2015 resulted in failure due to non-participation of bidders.

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