By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
The Department of Transportation (DOTr) on Tuesday assured that it will increase the number of running Metro Rail Transit (MRT-3) trains as spare parts for the defective rail system arrive.
At the Senate committee on public services’ hearing on the status of MRT-3 operations, DOTr Undersecretary for Rails Timothy James Batan said the number of trains would be raised to 10 by the end of the month.
Batan reported that the DOTr has started receiving the bulk of new train spare parts from foreign suppliers, which he said, could bring the trains back on the tracks.
Batan said the MRT-3 currently runs at least seven trains a day. But as of 10 a.m. Tuesday, the MRT-3 management reported only six trains running, after a breakdown at 6:32 a.m. which caused commuters to walk along the tracks between Ortigas and Shaw Boulevard stations.
The management said the malfunction was due to an electrical failure in its braking system.
Batan said they target to increase the MRT-3 trains to 15 by April after its three-day shutdown during the Holy Week, when they can fully work on the maintenance of the rail system.
Ideally, however, there should be at least 20 trains running per day, Batan said.
In the hearing, Batan admitted that maintaining the MRT-3 “has been difficult” as he enumerated the challenges facing them in addressing the problem.
Among others, the DOTr official cited varying spare parts from various suppliers for the MRT-3 which cause delays if found incompatible.
He also said a “major” cause of train breakdowns was related to its MRT-3’s signaling system which some components, in a recent audit, was found to be incoherent and modified.
Batan said they had tapped Canadian firm Bombardier to restock spare parts and restore and rehabilitate the signaling system.
Bombardier, he said, vowed to deliver the parts within a six-month period under their P400-million contract.
He said the MRT-3 tracks and motors, which he described to be “in a really deteriorated state” need replacement than just reconditioning.
Its coaches, he added, must be overhauled. He said the current trains were supplied by its previous maintenance provider Sumimoto Corporation in 2008 and should have been replaced in 2016.
The DOTr spends an average of P8 billion per year for the maintenance and rehabilitation of the troubled rail system, Batan said. He said it will take the agency two years to complete the rehabilitation of the MRT-3.
The DOTr started yesterday its testing on the 48 light rail vehicles (LRVs) purchased from Dalian Locomotive and Rolling Stocks as part of the audit on the controversial coaches.
Despite findings that these were incompatible with the current MRT-3 system, Batan said they are keen on using the Dalian trains to aid in the operations of the rail system.
The audit on the Dalian trains will end in March, he said.
In addition, he said the Japan government is also helping in the systems audit, sending some 150 engineers to study the MRT-3 rehabilitation.