The DOTr in a statement yesterday said lower revenues and ridership were due to years of mismanagement of the MRT-3, resulting in the compounded degradation of the rail system.
Michael Varcas
DOTr: Passenger safety more important than higher revenue from MRT operations
Richmond Mercurio (The Philippine Star) - August 23, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Transportation (DOTr) said it would not gamble the safety of MRT-3 passengers in exchange for more revenues, following a recent Commission on Audit (COA) report indicating that revenue collection and ridership hit record low levels last year.

The DOTr in a statement yesterday said lower revenues and ridership were due to years of mismanagement of the MRT-3, resulting in the compounded degradation of the rail system.

“Revenues require ridership, ridership requires trains, and it is unfortunate that the number of reliable and safe trains available to MRT-3 in 2018 went down due to years of neglect, bad maintenance practices, and failure to undertake scheduled overhaul and upgrading works,” the agency said.

The COA report showed that MRT-3 collection from ticket sales fell to P2.07 billion last year from P2.78 billion in 2017, while ridership plunged to 104.275 million from 140.152 million the previous year.

“DOTr MRT-3 strongly highlights that revenue maximization is not its primary objective, and current DOTr policy does not condone gambling with passengers’ safety in exchange for higher revenues,” the agency said.

Since the MRT-3 maintenance transition team took over after termination of Busan Universal Rail Inc. in November 2017, the DOTr said measures have been taken to only deploy trains that are safe and reliable.

The agency said this is contrary to previous MRT-3 management’s  practice of “force deploying” trains, regardless of their reliability and safety, as shown in the hundreds of unloading incidents that hounded the system from 2012 to 2017.

The DOTr said previous practice of force deploying unreliable and unsafe trains may have been driven by the commercial considerations of earlier maintenance providers, who get paid based on number of deployed trains, regardless of whether those trains break down during operations.

“Since 2018, MRT-3 only deploys trains that are not likely to break down during operations, because breakdowns result not just in passenger inconvenience, but more importantly, breakdowns expose passengers to safety risks, especially in cases of unloading incidents between stations,” it said.

With its policy of deploying only safe and reliable trains and not force deploying trains, the DOTr said unloading incidents drastically went down to 57 last year and 16 so far this year, from 463 in 2017.

The agency said it remains committed to passengers’ safety first policy and would not exchange it for increased revenues.

The DOTr has vowed to fix and restore the MRT-3 to its original and high-grade design state by the third quarter of 2021 through the help of maintenance service provider Sumitomo-Mitsubishi Heavy Industries of Japan.

 Under the MRT-3 rehabilitation project, Sumitomo-MHI will undertake the overhaul of all 72 light rail vehicles, replace all mainline tracks, rehabilitate power and overhead catenary systems, upgrade the signaling system, communications and CCTV systems, and repair all of escalators and elevators.

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