MANILA -- Amid another stalled train on Sunday morning, Transport Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya insists that the Metro Rail Transit 3 (MRT-3) system is fully operational, as he vowed to personally ride it in the next few days to prove it is safe.
“Even after the accident on Tuesday, it was reported to me that the MRT went into full operations after. The following day, it was fully operational. Tomorrow, I’m sure it will be fully operational,” Abaya said on an interview with radio dzMM, pointing out that at least 20 trains are deployed each day based on service agreements.
“Based on service levels, there should be 16 trains deployed a day. If it’s below 15 trains, there will already be financial repercussions,” he said.
A train set is composed of three cars or coaches. A car, on the other hand, is composed of three sections. When a train derailed last Wednesday, only one coach was damaged, while the two other coaches were sent back to the depot, Abaya explained.
Abaya also announced that 48 new coaches will be delivered starting next year.
“We are also procuring a signaling system. If we manage to finish the process in a month, the installation will take six to eight months. By February of first quarter of next year, we already have a new signaling system,” he said.
Reports showed that the derailed train in the Wednesday incident initially stalled between the Magallanes and Taft stations. Following standard operating procedures, the train needed to be pushed by an oncoming train. The two trains’ link, however, was disconnected along the way.
Two days after the incident, another train stalled at the Buendia station due to technical glitches.
Another incident was reported on Sunday morning.
“Malinaw sa manual, 'di dapat patakbuhin kung delikado o unsafe. Ako mismo, kapag sinabi ng Diyos sa akin o kung sinong rail expert na may aksidenteng mangyayari, ipapatigil ko kaagad,” he said.
Abaya conceded, however, that the MRT 3 trains stall frequently because they are already old, noting that the MRT 3 trains have never been replaced, while the oldest system, the LRT 1, by comparison, already had around three upgrades.
“The stalling happens even to the best train operators,” he stressed, pointing out that even the transport minister in Singapore has received criticisms due to similar incidents, but these were blamed on aging trains.
Asked to comment on the statement of the Metro Rail Transit Holdings that the company itself cannot assure the safety of the system, Abaya said, “It’s an insult to our ground technicians who have been there since the beginning.”
MRT Holdings is the controlling shareholder of the Metro Rail Transit Corp., which had claimed that the government has stopped them from conducting a technical audit of the rail system.
Abaya, however, denied this. “The ball is already in their court. The special audit should already start so that we’ll know the current status and performance of the MRT,” he said.
“The replacement of the trains should have been done years ago. But it is only now that we’re pursuing the projects because of political will even if there is a [temporary restraining order].”
MRTC earlier sued the government from expanding the MRT3’s capacity with its purchase of the new train coaches.
Abaya also insists on a government takeover of the MRTC through an equity value buy out.
“The original agreement was: the private sector will procure, while the government will pay for the procurement. We feel that the person procuring should be the person paying for accountability and responsibility,” he said.