From the time it was completed during the Ramos Administration up until the middle of the Aquino Administration, the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT-3) that traverses EDSA never suffered a major breakdown or accident, because it was maintained quite properly. The fact that the MRT-3 operated smoothly during the entire nine years of the Arroyo Administration is truly remarkable.
Now ferrying more than 500,000 commuters daily, the MRT-3 is hazardously operating way beyond its rated capacity of 350,000 riders per day. But just imagine what would happen if the MRT shuts down completely for only one or two working days. The more than 500,000 riders who use the system daily will have to scramble for buses, vans and taxis to get to their destination, which will cause massive traffic jams not only along EDSA but also along secondary roads and much of the stretch of C-5.
For sure, the MRT system must have more coaches. These must be added not just to accommodate the half-a million passengers but also to make the people enjoy their ride, which now is like a form of torture with a threat of loss of life or limb from a possible accident.
Under suspicious circumstances, the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) has signed a contract with a Chinese rail firm to acquire new rolling stocks for the MRT-3. But it will be at least 12 months before the initial batch of trains arrive. This means that the unsafe congestion at the MRT-3 will continue at least for another 12 months.
In the meantime, there is an urgent need to make sure the MRT-3 keeps on running smoothly despite its current congestion, and that no serious accident happen.
The MRT-3 is obviously criminally ill-maintained. There have been shutdowns of a stretch and even of the entire stretch because of accidents, technical malfunction, and recently, the discovery of a crack at one portion of its rails. For sure more accidents than what has happened recently are waiting to happen.
The column by Rigoberto Tiglao published on October 5 detailed what is wrong in the way the MRT-3 is maintained.
Tiglao quoted a September 4, 2014 report to the DOTC official in charge of the MRT-3, Renato San Jose, which reads: “When Global-APT JV assumed as (sic) the Temporary Maintenance Provider of MRT 2 on 4 September 2013, there were twenty nine pieces of Stock Rails replacement. Since then, the said number has gone down to two and a half (2.5) pieces. Furthermore, the latest Rail Replacement Summary as of 06 August revealed that in at least two instances, Global APT JV has used old rails instead of new ones.”
Also, the current signaling system of the MRT-3 has become defective, which has slowed down the system’s overall speed.
If there is anything good the Aquino Administration and Transportation and Communications Secretary Joseph Abaya can still do, it is to make sure that service maintenance be reformed to make sure the MRT-3 runs smoothly and safely. Allowing the current service providers of the MRT-3, PH Trams and then APT-Global, to pocket unreasonably hefty profits and while sacrificing the safety and integrity of the MRT-3 is a capital crime. PH Trams and APT-Global have proved to be incompetent. And they obviously got the maintenance contract that used to be with a superb Japanese company because they are connected with the former MRT-3 officials who are now being charged.
These bogus maintenance providers must be replaced immediately.
It has been proposed that the government should take over the operation and maintenance of the MRT-3. That could be done. But the original owners have to be paid the billions they want for their property.
If and when this happens, the government should really boost the number of coaches and make them as comfortable as the ones they have in Hong Kong and Singapore.
When this happens, the traffic problem will suddenly improve somehow. For thousands of car owners who must use cars to get to work and go back home—because of the absence of good public transport—will surely leave their cars at home.