RIDERS of the Metro Rail Transit 3 (MRT 3) should prepare for more bumpy rides ahead.
Glitches that had stopped or interrupted rail operations in the past weeks are expected to continue because the agency will not be able to repair defective rails until next year, Transportation Secretary Emilio Abaya admitted on Wednesday.
Abaya, who appeared before a Senate finance committee hearing on the proposed 2015 budget, said bidding for the emergency procurement of new rails starts today.
The P119-million rail replacement contract will cover 6,000 linear meters of tracks.
Abaya said damaged rails is one of the causes of service disruption at MRT 3 because broken rails produce strong vibrations that affect the train’s electronics system.
He, however, added that while the bidding and procurement process for new rails will start today, the actual replacement of broken and damaged rails will take place next year.
On Tuesday, MRT 3 had to limit its train operation from Taft Avenue in Pasay City to Shaw Boulevard in Mandaluyong City because part of the northbound tracks was damaged.
Abaya said the rail replacement next year will cover at least eight percent of the total length of the MRT 3 rail system or around six kilometers of tracks. He noted that the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) will need at least P2 billion for the overhaul and upgrade of the train system.
The DOTC chief gave assurances that despite the train glitches, MRT 3 is still safe.
“We can always afford to shut down MRT 3 operations. You drop everything under safety and we’ve already done that,” he said in an interview after the budget hearing.
Abaya added that there will be no MRT 3 fare hike this month or in November, noting that a fare increase would need the approval of the Cabinet economic development cluster.
“Definitely not within the month or next because it [fare hike]will depend on how the economic development cluster would evaluate the situation and there is a lot of things to be considered before they give the green light,” he told reporters.
The DOTC proposed a flat fare of P11 upon entering the station and an additional P1 per kilometer.
Once the fare raise is implemented, a trip on MRT 3 will cost between P11 and P28, up from the present P10 to P15.
“On an average trip, it will be a P5 increase,” Abaya said.
But Anakbayan national chairman Vencer Crisostomo criticized the proposed fare adjustment.
“After displaying gross incompetence and criminal neglect, the Aquino government and its transport officials now have the gall to burden the commuters with higher fare rates? How utterly shameless and garapal [brazen],” he said in a statement.
Malacanang, however, said a fare hike is necessary.
In a news briefing, Palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda said there is “really a need” to adjust train fares. He added that the subsidies given to MRT 3 can be used for other “equitable” projects.
“We will wait kung kailan talaga itataas [when the fare will be really raised]. So, we don’t have any information as to that. There is really a need to [reduce subsidies]…Remember the statement of the President [that the]the taxes collected all over the country are used to subsidize the MRT 3 ridership,” the official explained.
“So, you’ve got taxes collected from Cebu, Visayas, Mindanao or from the balance of Luzon who don’t enjoy that. So, we recognize that we need to also lower that [subsidy]so that the money that should go to the subsidy, we can use that for poverty alleviation, intervention or the other social programs,” Lacierda said.
With JOEL M. SY EGCO AND FRANCIS EARL A. CUETO