Why MRT owner is opposing DOTC's purchase of new trains

By Jacque Manabat, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 27 2014 03:33 PM | Updated as of Nov 28 2014 09:04 PM

MANILA – The Metro Rail Transit (MRT) train overshooting incident on August 13 in Taft-EDSA station is just the tip of the iceberg. MRT passengers may face bigger problems in the future.

MRT Holdings (MRTH) is worried that the 48 new trains purchased by the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) may not be compatible with the existing MRT railway system.

MRT-3 is using double-articulated Light Rail Vehicles (LRV) powered by electricity. The expertise of the manufacturer, Dalian Locomotive and Rolling Stock of China, is locomotives, similar to the likes of Philippine National Railways.

MRTH Chairman Bob Sobrepeña fears that Dalian might manufacture a prototype not suitable for MRT-3.

He pointed out it may be Dalian's first time to build an LRV. This may cause future problems that may endanger the commuters.

DOTC has procured these trains and the prototype is expected to be delivered third quarter of next year.

In the fourth draft of the MTR Hong Kong audit, it is stated that "the accuracy of the report are compromised by incomplete information provided to MRTC." The foreign experts were asking in particular about the failure reports during the period of September 2013 to August 2014.

It also states that "the review of spares consumption and stock level is specifically asked to be excluded from the scope of this review" and "the maintenance review is also specifically asked to be excluded from the scope." Although it is not clear who asked for the exclusion.

The audit report draft shows several issues pointing to a conclusion that the railway system is poor and unacceptable.

In the trackwork asset condition summary states: "A broken rail is a serious threat to the safe operation of a railway. It can potentially cause train derailment leading to substantial casualties."

The final draft is expected to be released soon.

Sobrepeña said that if there will be changes on the fourth draft for the final report, it will only be minimal.

Sobrepeña, who is one of the owners of MRTH, said the MRT-3 system has been neglected.

Last Tuesday, he asked the Congress to reinstate the former maintenance provider of the MRT, Sumitomo Corp., as an immediate solution to MRT woes. Currently, MRT-3 is maintained by Global APT.

In past reports, Global APT admitted that they are incapable of procuring rails. Their one-year contract limits them to purchase these rails which needs six months' lead time.

Sobrepeña also noted the failed bidding for a new maintenance provider. One of the possible reasons for this is that no qualified maintenance provider would undertake a contract with the MRT in its present condition, where it is badly in need of repairs and rehabilitation.

The private owners, therefore, proposed that the maintenance contract include rehabilitation.

In an interview on Wednesday, DOTC spokesperson Atty. Migs Sagcal said if the private owners want a single point of responsibility, then the proposed equity value buyout (EVBO) should be pushed.

In the EVBO, the government will operate and supervise the maintenance of MRT-3. If something happens, the public can point the government to take actions.