DOTC bids out P837-M MRT 3 signaling, power systems upgrade
MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) is pursuing measures to upgrade the service of the Metro Rail Transit line 3 (MRT 3) along EDSA after a recent accident that injured close to 40 passengers.
Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya said the government is bidding out a contract worth P836.5 million ($19.05 million) for the upgrade of MRT 3’s ancillary systems, including its signaling and power systems.
“We are procuring the upgrade of the signaling system because it is old and we are upgrading the power system as well,” Abaya said.
Abaya added that the rail along EDSA would also be replaced, as well as the existing trains.
Abaya said the company is at the end of the 8-year cycle of “overhauling” trains. It is now seeking more budget from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) for this.
“… However not all trains will be overhauled. We are still trying to reach out with the DBM to increase the budget to address this as well,” Abaya added.
The DOTC chief said representatives of Dalian Locomotive & Rolling Stock Co. Ltd. of China has presented the design of the new trains being procured for MRT 3.
The DOTC awarded a P3.8-billion ($86.55 million*) contract for the acquisition of 48 brand new trains in January after the Makati City Regional Trial Court denied the plea of MRT 3 shareholder MRT Holdings Inc. (MRTH) to stop the awarding of the MRT 3 capacity expansion project to the Chinese firm.
In terms of maintenance, Abaya said the one-year contract of APT Global set to expire on September 5 would likely be extended as the terms of reference for the bidding of a longer 3-year contract is still being finalized.
“It might be tough. I don’t think we could award before September 5 so the contract of APT will be extended because we have no choice,” Abaya said.
The MRT 3 mishap that injured at least 36 people and damaged the terminal at the Taft station was caused by a series of lapses by personnel, officials said on August 19.
Human error led to MRT 3 derailment?
Meanwhile, a DOTC probe established that the derailing of MRT 3 train #03 on August 13 was due to human error. The two train drivers involved in the incident failed to follow safety procedures in the train’s “coupling,” Abaya said.
As a result of the investigation, Abaya said, the department would implement a re-training of MRT 3 personnel and introduce “on-the-spot audits” of “divisions in-charge of the train drivers, control center, and engineering.”
MRTH, owner of MRT Corporation, slammed Abaya for skirting the real issue by blaming the drivers and control center supervisors instead of the MRT 3 maintenance provider. The personnel are facing administrative charges to be filed by the DOTC.
MRTH spokesman David Narvasa said human error might have caused the accident on August 13, but not the stalling of MRT 3 trains on August 15 and 17.
“It cannot be that 3 times a week, there is a case of human error. The question that should have been answered was: ‘why did the trains stall? Was there a lapse in the maintenance that opened the system up to human error?’ This should never have happened if there was proper maintenance," Narvasa said.
Narvasa also pointed out that no such incident happened while the MRT 3 was under maintenance by Sumitomo Corporation from 2000 to 2013.
"In the span of 12 years under Sumitomo's maintenance, there was never any incident like this," Narvasa pointed out.
The MRTH spokesperson also lamented that the DOTC and PH Trams, the maintenance provider prior to APT, did not allow representatives of MTR Hong Kong to conduct a safety audit in 2013.
“While the arrival of MRT Hong Kong next week is welcome, MRT Holdings also revealed that the overshooting incident may have been prevented had DOTC allowed MRT Hong Kong to conduct a technical audit last year,” Narvasa said.
For his part, DOTC spokesperson Michael Arthur Sagcal denied the allegations of MRTH.
“Apart from trying to block DOTC's purchase of new MRT3 coaches for our riders, MRT Holdings II has no personality with respect to the rail system. MRTH's continued meddling in its operations is suspicious, especially after being caught in a brazen lie last week, claiming that the MRT 3 office had denied access to technical auditors as of last Friday,” Sagcal said.
With at least two disruptions in the MRT 3 in a single week, several groups have called for the resignation of Abaya.
Abaya assured the groups he would not cling on to power. In fact, he told reporters on August 19 it would take “one text” for him to leave his post in government.
But Malacañang said Abaya continues to enjoy the full trust and support of President Benigno Aquino III. – Rappler.com
*($1 = P43.91)