DESPITE a slew of mishaps, an official of the Department of Transportation (DoTr) said the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT-3) remained to be a “reliable” mode of transportation to over 500, 000 passengers daily.
“Sa ngayon ang tingin namin … reliable pa rin ‘yung tren kahit may mga pagkukulang ito (As far as we are concerned, the train is still reliable despite its shortcomings.),” Transportation Undersecretary for Rails Cesar Chavez said in a television interview on Friday.
In a statement also on Friday, Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade stood firm on the agency’s decision to continue the operations of the MRT-3 despite calls for a temporary shutdown over safety concerns.
He said the services would continue as long as the MRT technical team could assure the safety of commuters.
Tugade, however, said the agency would not disregard the option to stop operations if needed.
On Thursday, one of the coaches of the MRT-3 was detached from its system, forcing about 140 commuters to walk along the tracks from the Ayala to Buendia Station.
On the same day, a technical glitch stalled the train at the Quezon Avenue Station in what has become a daily occurrence for the system.
And while the incident last Tuesday had nothing to do with the MRT-3 operations, Angeline Fernando lost her arm when she fell on the rail tracks due to dizziness. Her arm was reattached by doctors at Makati Medical Center and part of the cost of the procedure was paid for by MRT-3 management.
Transport officials were responding to a statement from Sen. Grace Poe, head of the Senate Committee on Public Services, who called for a temporary suspension of MRT-3 operations so that its management could focus on fixing and checking the glitches.
Interviewed on radio yesterday, Poe said that transport officials seemed uncertain about the reliability of the trains.
“Pero makikita mo na hindi rin ganoon kabuo ang loob sa kanilang pagsagot. Nakikita naman natin sa araw-araw na yata ay may aberya na nangyayari. May isa ngang naaksidente na indibidwal mabuti na lang ay mayroong isang samaritano doon na nagmagandangloob na tulungan siya. Pero yung talagang nakababahala ay iyong paghihiwalay ng mga bagon kasi hindi basta-bastang nangyayari iyan (But you can sense that they are unsure of their answers. We can see that technical glitches happen almost everyday. One person has already had an accident and it’s a good thing that there was a Samaritan who helped her. But what is really bothersome is the separation of the coach because that just doesn’t happen),” she said.
“Kaya nga ako ay nakabitaw ng salita kahapon at sinabi ko, alam ninyo kailangan talagang magdesisyon kayo, alam kong marami talaga sa ating mapeperwisyo dito pero mas mahalaga na ligtas ang ating mga kababayan kung kailangan ninyo talagang inspeksyunin at busisiin ang kaligtasan nito (That’s why I said yesterday that it was time for them to decide. I know that a lot of people will be inconvenienced but what is more important is their safety that is why there is a need for a closer inspection).” Poe added.
Poe said that the coaches were not the only problem but the rail tracks also needed to be checked on whether these could still support the weight of the commuters using MRT3.
At the same time, Poe urged transport officials to upgrade security measures in MRT stations amid suspicions that some people may have sabotaged train operations.
Chavez said that the Messma Card or black box of the decoupled Light Rail Vehicle (LRV) #68 was “missing.” He said the Messma Card functioned like a black box that recorded all applied interventions.
“They mentioned something about the possibility that there was sabotage involved in the decoupling of the coach. Dapat ‘yung seguridad ng mga controls na ‘yan ay maayos (The controls used in the MRT operation must be properly secured),” said Poe.
“Sabihin na nating nagdadahilan ba sila pero let’s not overlook it (We may say that they were just making excuses but let’s not overlook it),” said Poe.
She added: “Ibig sabihin bantayan nilang mabuti (ang MRT) kasi alam mo madami din silang nakaaway diyan sa pagpapalit ng maintenance provider, ‘di ba? (This means that they must secure the MRT because they may have picked up some enemies when they decided to look for another maintenance provider).”
“Wala tayong sinasabing ganoon ang nangyari. Pero sabi nga nila mayroon ‘yang (mechanical) component, mayroon ding isang electric, mayroong security lock na bago maghiwalay ang mga bagon na iyan. Hindi basta-bastang nangyayari ‘yan (We’re not saying that that was what really happened. But they said that the decoupling of coaches has mechanical, electric, and security lock components. It does not happen just like that),” she said.
Rio Intorio, an engineer, said, for his part, that when the train receives a communication error, power is automatically cut off from the train. “We are really baffled. We are still investigating (the incident),” he said.
“Who has the motive? Who has the opportunity? Who has the capability of removing the Black Box? Is the motive to simply cover up the mistake of the train operation of Index No. 5 or part of an effort to sabotage the entire operation? These are some questions that the team is looking into,” Chavez told reporters.
Poe has cautioned the DOTr to anticipate a legal battle with Busan Universal Rails Inc. (BURI) after it decided to terminate its contract with the maintenance provider.
WITH BERNADETTE E. TAMAYO