No quick relief in sight despite new MRT coaches from China

April 27, 2017 - 6:17 PM
Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade stresses a point at a press briefing in this file photo, after meeting with JICA officials on the feasibility study for Metro Manila's first subway system, to be built by Japan. JICA has completed the feasibility study, and rollout is seen in the third quarter of 2018. BERNARD TESTA, INTERAKSYON

MANILA – The 48 new MRT coaches that recently arrived from China, and which commuters had hoped would ease their daily woes, will not be used unless they have passed the safety test, Transportation (DoTr) Secretary Arturo Tugade said Thursday.

In a news conference on the sidelines of the ASEAN Summit in Pasay City, Tugade said he has instructed Cesar Chavez, assistant secretary for rails, to get a certification from a third party “that those trains are safe.”

“‘Pag hindi safe, hindi ko paaandarin ‘yan, baka bakalin ko ‘yan,” he said.  “But certainly, hindi rin ako magbabayad, bakit naman ako magbabayad kung ganun ang quality at standard [If they’re not safe, I won’t have them run these, I might even just treat them as scrap. And I certainly won’t pay for them if they’re sub-standard],” Tugade stressed.

Tugade said that while he acknowledged the public’s expectations for urgent relief from frequent breakdowns of the old trains, he would rather delay the use of the coaches than put at risk the lives of MRT passengers.

“I would like a certification before the Dalian trains are made operable . . . certified that they are safe for the riding public,” he said.

Told that the 48 coaches were bought at over P3 billion, an amount that critics had said could qualify as plunder, Tugade said, “Investigations are ongoing right now.  I assure you, once there is substantive proof that can justify a case, then we will do it.”

He added: “All these hanky-panky and foolishness, once established, will not go unpunished.”

Asked if he would call his predecessor, former Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya, under whose term the coaches were bought, Tugade said, “They will be entitled to their day in court.  When that moment arrives, so be it.”

The 48 new light rail vehicles (LRVs) were purchased during the Aquino administration from Dalian Locomotive and Rolling Stock Co. of China for P3.8 billion as part of the MRT-3’s capacity expansion project to address the increasing volume of train riders.

No signaling system

However, the DoTr said the coaches could not yet be used in the next three years because they had no signaling system device.

The signaling system maintains safe distances between trains and controls its speed.

The new coaches were procured supposedly to augment the number of trains and ease the daily woes of MRT riders, who have to endure long lines to be able to ride the train.

The MRT-3 has also experienced mechanical problems almost every week allegedly because of poor maintenance.

‘Maintenance firms must explain’

The DoTr has asked the maintenance service provider, the South Korea-Filipino joint venture of Busan Transportation Corp., Edison Development & Construction, Tramat Mercantile Inc., TMI Corp. Inc. and Castan Corp., to explain.

May imbestigasyon na umuusad ngayon, sana maintindihan niyo na ‘wag muna akong magsalita ngayon [An investigation is under way. I hope you understand I cannot say much for now] because there can be repercussions on contractual arrangements and legal pursuits,” he said.

As to the derailment of a train last April 18, Tugade said he was looking at the possible cause of the incident.

Meron akong tinitingnan na anggulo d’yan, kapag na-prove ay sasabihin ko [I’m looking at one angle; if that’s proven I’ll reveal it to you]. I will assure you that I will be open and transparent when the investigation is completed,” he said.

“One thing is sure as of this moment, they said that the train is safe,” he added.

Earlier, Senator Grace Poe said she wants Busan Universal Rail Inc. to take responsibility for the maintenance problems with the MRT-3 trains.

She also said that she agreed with Tugade that the contract with Busan for the maintenance of the trains should be reviewed.