MRT-3 hid ‘near-deadly’ disaster – lawmaker
Robertzon Ramirez, Delon Porcalla (The Philippine Star) - April 23, 2017 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Hundreds of passengers could have died or been seriously hurt when the gearbox of the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT-3) broke down Tuesday night, but the management hid the incident from the public, an administration lawmaker said yesterday.

“We were still fortunate that the train contained no passengers and the speed was slow. It could have had disastrous consequences if it was derailed while it was still filled with passengers,” Rep. Jericho Nograles of party-list Puwersa ng Bayaning Atleta disclosed.

The first-term congressman – a nephew of President Duterte – accused maintenance provider Busan Universal Rail Inc. (BURI) of hiding the information from the public, knowing very well the incident at MRT-3 North Avenue station was a “near-deadly disaster.”

“The incident was not reported to the public in an apparent effort to cover-up the negligence and inefficiency of the maintenance provider BURI and conceal the true state of the MRT-3 system,” Nograles said in a statement.

He said the MRT-3 train’s gearbox suddenly broke down and snapped, causing the train to be derailed. Nograles said this is equivalent to the car’s axle that holds all of the four wheels together.

First time

Nograles cited that in 2014, at least 38 passengers were injured when an MRT-3 overshot the tracks at the Taft Avenue station due to apparent brake failure.

“What happened last Tuesday is more serious than in 2014 when an MRT train overshot its tracks because the train was literally removed from its tracks! A lot of deadly scenarios can happen if the train was running on normal speed and was filled with passengers,” he warned.

The incident resulted in the halting of operations, where the “the management could only claim that the train system suffered a glitch.”

It took the MRT four hours to put the wheels back on the track, he noted.

Nograles said that this is the “first case of derailment in MRT-3’s whole service history and this is a very serious sign that the system is now in a state of serious disrepair and could already be unsafe for the riding public.”

“This is clearly poor maintenance and BURI is clearly at fault here. A train’s gearbox is like a car’s axle. We’re lucky no one was harmed but I renew my calls for concern that these are rolling coffins,” Nograles said.

Ordered to explain

BURI is at risk of losing its contract over the spate of technical problems that occurred only days after its four-day repair works.

Department of Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade ordered the provider to explain why its contract should not be terminated, Cesar Chavez, DOTr assistant secretary for rails, said in a radio interview.

The South Korea-Filipino joint venture of Busan Transportation Corp., Edison Development & Construction, Tramat Mercantile Inc., TMI Corp Inc., and Castan Corp. is the MRT-3’s maintenance service provider.

Tugade told MRT-3 and Busan officials to submit their report about what happened last week.

Downplayed?

On the MRT-3’s service status page, dotcmrt3.gov.ph/service-status, the rail line reported the incident as a technical problem at the North Avenue station that prompted a service interruption from Shaw Boulevard to Taft Avenue stations.

It also reported 10 technical problems last week.

The MRT-3 suspended its operation at around 8:48 p.m. on Monday from North Avenue to Shaw Boulevard stations (and vice versa) due to a technical problem at the Magallanes station.

Normal operations resumed at around 10 p.m.

MRT commuters were forced to get off the train at the Magallanes station Tuesday morning.

Another technical problem forced commuters to get off the train at the Quezon Avenue station at around 12:03 p.m. on Wednesday.

The MRT-3 suffered three technical problems on Thursday, once at the Boni Avenue station and twice at the North Avenue station, while it encountered glitches twice on Friday at the Magallanes and Boni Avenue stations.

Officials blame heat

Deo Manalo, MRT operations chief, said the high temperature in Metro Manila contributes to the technical problems.

“When there is an increase in temperature, the likelihood of having more fatigue and heating of components will pose higher maintenance activity,” he said.

Busan’s Eugene Rapanot said the grease needed for the MRT trains must be designed for warmer temperatures.

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