• New MRT-3 coaches for 2016 might be useless

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    As the government awaits the additional light rail vehicles (LRVs) in the bid to improve MRT-3 services, the Makabayan bloc in Congress said that they might be useless.

    The Department of Transportation and Communications (DoTC) could not assure lawmakers that the 48 new coaches could be attached to the trains upon their arrival, in a hearing at the House of Representatives, said Rep. Terry Ridon of Kabataan Party-list.

    He feared that the LRVs might become a “fully-paid white elephant” because under the build-operate-transfer contract, the government has no power to take over the MRT[-]3 operations and that the final decision would come from the Sobrepena-led consortium.

    Asked what the DoTC can do now to ensure that P3.8 billion is not wasted, Ridon said that it should proceed with the full and complete buyout of the MRT line without reprivatization.

    “This is the only condition in which the private contractor cannot dictate the terms of operations, particularly whether the coaches can be placed into the tracks,” he said in a text message.

    The DoTC and the Palace have been under fire in recent weeks for poor Metro Rail Transit (MRT) services.

    To address the problem, the government sought new coaches worth P3.77-billion eventually awarding the contract to winning bidder CNR Dalian Locomotive and Rolling Stock Company of China last year.

    MRT Holdings II, Inc. filed an injunction case but the Makati Regional Trial Court dismissed it last February, paving the way for the arrival of the coaches by 2016.

    Ridon blamed the Palace, MRT and DoTC for “not doing anything” in the past three years when they knew long queues were inevitable.

    Last week, Senator Francis Escudero noted that the DoTC has no plans yet to buy additional trains even with the new coaches because of the expected increase in ridership from 2016 onwards.

    The MRT currently ferries 20,000 passengers more on average than its capacity of 540,000.

    Meanwhile Rep. Carlos Zarate of Bayan Muna again hit Abaya for alleged early campaigning for Interior Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas 3rd.

    “Sec. Joseph Abaya should better concentrate more on the pressing problems besetting the MRT so that our commuters would have a safer and more comfortable way of getting to their workplaces or schools and back home,” he said.

    Abaya reportedly addressed Roxas as president (“Thank you, President Mar Roxas) when the latter introduced him as guest speaker at groundbreaking rites for two infrastructure projects in Roxas City, Capiz.

    “He is the president of our party and of our future plans and endeavours,” Abaya was quoted as saying.

    Zarate said that while commuters are suffering daily from “sardine-like” coaches and endless lines, among others, Abaya is instead doing his rounds as Roxas’ campaign manager for 2016.

    “Besides it seems that they are using the donations for the Yolanda victims to advance their political ambitions,” he added but did not reply when asked to comment on the Palace’s dare for him to substantiate his previous claims.

    Various issues hounding the MRT-LRT are now in respective committees in Congress for investigation. REINA TOLENTINO

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