MRT BLUES | Watch: Trains don’t just stop midway, they also get ‘de-coupled’

November 16, 2017 - 5:34 PM
MRT decouples 2
Commuters are forced to walk on rails after an MRT coach decoupled from the first two cars on Thursday, November 16, after leaving the Ayala Station on its way to Buendia Station. Photo courtesy of Ivan Villegas.

MANILA – Thursday’s mishap at the MRT3 topped previous reports of “glitches” to which the public has been used to. This time, instead of the usual problem of a train not running or stopping midway, one wagon was decoupled from a lead train, forcing about 200 passengers in the stranded wagon to walk on the rails to the next station.

Photos and video posted by some passengers showed the third wagon being detached from the first two ones ahead of it, and then being left on the rail as the train departed Ayala Avenue Station about 8:45 a.m. The passengers had to walk on the rail to the next station, at Buendia Station also in Makati City.

As passenger Ivan Villegas recalled it, “parang may naramdaman akong kumalas. Pagtingin ko sa part… MRT kumalas na siya [I felt something got detached. And when I checked, I saw the MRT wagons had been separated].”

Passengers inside the stranded wagon began to fear for their safety, he said.

“’Yung mga kasama ko sa loob ng MRT syempre nataranta. Uminit na kasi. Yung mga babae nasu-suffocate na. Ang ginawa namin binuksan namin yung bintana sa taas. Yung mga malapit sa pinto binuksan yung emergency door [ Of course my co-passengers started to painc, as it was getting hot and stuffy. Some women started to suffocate. We tried to open the window at the top. Those near the door broke open the emergency door],” he recalled.

Passengers are seen inside the MRT coach that decoupled from the first two cars on Thursday, November 16, after leaving the Ayala Station on its way to Buendia Station. Photo courtesy of Ivan Villegas.

No one was reported hurt in the incident, which drew outrage from the public and from the Senate public services committee chair, Sen. Grace Poe. The senator said she will not call hearings this time around, as she was tired of listening to the explanations of officials. She said they should simply continue to quickly fix the serious problems of the MRT or even consider suspending operations until all problems are fixed.

Initial explanations by MRT officials, meanwhile, said the de-coupling was caused by some electrical failure in the mechanical parts of the coupler, which links together the three cars in this particular train.

It is said that this is not the first time that the so-called coupler had a problem that caused some wagons to be detached.

A similar incident happened in 2011 near the Kamuning Station; and in 2014, when an MRT train was derailed at the Taft Avenue station and the runaway coaches hit a concrete wall of the station.

In this latest case, MRT management is puzzled as to why the detached wagon kept moving despite a mechanism that supposedly causes a train to stop when only two wagons remain linked to each other.

MRT director Michael Capati said: “Hindi basta basta maghihiwalay ‘yan. Marami kaming anggulong tinitingnan. ‘Di rin namin maisip bakit ganito [Those trains just won’t get detached. We’re looking at different angles. For now we can’t understand why this happened].”

The incident has heightened questions about the safety of the MRT3, which ferries over half a million people daily.

Capati, however, insisted the train remains safe, and promised an exhaustive technical investigation.

Meanwhile, Poe has suggested stopping MRT operations temporarily until the many technical problems are sorted out. The Department of Transportation two weeks ago recalled its contract with private maintenance contractor, the Busan Universal Rail Inc. (BURI), accusing it of misrepresentation.

The MRT management frowns on stopping the MRT operations at this point, with Capati saying such will inconvenience too many people.

To ensure public safety, meanwhile, two security marshalls will be deployed on each train. And, to give the technical pool mnore time to fix the trains, officials will reduce the period within which the trains run.

Instead of 5am, the first run will now begin at 5:30am.

The last trip at night will be moved down from 11pm to 10:30pm.