FINALLY, some relief for around 500,000 commuters of the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) is in sight.
The Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) said it is speeding up the expansion program for MRT with the acquisition of an additional 48 light rail vehicles (LRVs) to the MRT 3 after the Makati Regional Trial Court junked the injunction case filed by the MRT Holdings II Inc. on February 21.
“The DOTC successfully fought for public interest and defended its position in court. But the true winners are the riders of MRT-3. The supplier can now start manufacturing the 48 brand new LRVs, which will be delivered in tranches starting in the second half of 2015,” said DOTC Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya.
Upon the dismissal of the case, the DOTC issued the Notice to Proceed to Dalian Locomotive and Rolling Stock Co. of China, which won the public bidding conducted last year.
Under the terms of the contract, Dalian will have 18 months to deliver the prototype LRV for testing on the MRT-3 system. It should then deliver the remaining LRVs in tranches over the next 18 months.
Nevertheless, the DOTC secured Dalian’s commitment to expedite the manufacturing process by dedicating more workers to the project, in order to deliver the prototype in 12 months’ time and the remaining LRVs in monthly tranches in the succeeding 12-month period.
“Our commuters deserve better services at MRT-3 and the addition of more LRVs is long overdue. We are doing all we can to get them here as soon as possible. Dalian has expressed the same commitment to the riding public,” Abaya said.
In its decision, the Makati RTC cited Republic Act 8975, which states that only the Supreme Court can enjoin government infrastructure projects from proceeding. This shows the lack of merit in MRT Holdings II’s petition.
Moreover, MRT Holdings II stated last week that it filed this case knowing fully well that the proper forum is an arbitration panel in Singapore. Another arbitration case involving the Equity Value Buy-Out (EVBO) of Metro Rail Transit Corp. (MRTC) is already ongoing in Singapore.
Earlier, the DOTC and MRT-3 administration said that they would extend the operating hours of the metropolis’ most utilized urban rail transit system starting February 24 to determine if it is more efficient in the long run.
DOTC and the MRT-3 also said that this would also give commuters another option to beat traffic in Metro Manila because of the ongoing infrastructure projects that are expected to cause heavy traffic in the metropolis especially on rush hours.
“This is part of our program to mitigate the traffic situation.
Based on the test run, we will monitor how much passengers are willing to alter their riding habits by commuting earlier in the morning or later in the evening,” said DOTC Spokesman Michael Arthur Sagcal.
He added that DOTC would monitor if this will encourage motorists to take the train instead of their cars.”
The DOTC’s MRT-3 Capacity Expansion project will improve the current system’s three-car configuration arriving every three minutes to a four-car configuration arriving every 2.5 minutes, to serve more passengers at a more efficient pace.
Abaya said the DOTC and the Department of Finance should speed up the buy-out of MRTC, to free government from having to deal with the likes of those behind the case.
“They [private firm]were clearly more than willing to file a baseless petition and delay the project at the expense of the public,” Abaya said.