Japan's Sumitomo set to return as MRT3 maintenance provider

TARLAC, Philippines – Japan's Sumitomo-Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. (MHI) takes over this month as new maintenance provider Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT3) Department of Transportation (DOTr) Secretary Arthur Tugade said on Wednesday, July 4.

In a press briefing at the site of the New Clark City in Capas, Tarlac, Tugade said that Japanese company returns onboard this July, after the signing of a loan agreement with the government of Japan is concluded.

"We will upgrade the rails and existing coaches and that is happening in the next couple of months when Sumitomo is already hopefully onboard," Tugade told reporters.

Sumitomo-MHI built and designed the MRT3 railway system from 1998 to 2000, and maintained it until 2012. 

Busan Universal Rail Incorporated (BURI) took over as maintenance provider of MRT3 early 2016. DOTr terminated its contract with BURI in November 2017 after it failed to address the maintenance issues raised by the government.

Since the year started, the MRT3 has broken down 60 times and experienced a record low of 6 running trains back in February. Ridership was cut down to around 200,000 then, from the average daily ridership of 463,000 in 2017.

Expect more trains?

Tugade also announced that the audit conducted by German-based TUV Rheinland on the controversial Dalian trains was finally completed.

Tugade said, however, that talks between China's CRRC Dalian Company Limited was still ongoing. The discussion will determine the fate of the 48 Dalian trains – whether it will be used by the MRT3 or not.

"Is the evaluation showing that the submission is complete and in accordance to the TOR (terms of reference)? [The] answer is no. Is the non-compliance substantive and prejudicial to safety and comfort of passengers? That we will find out during the discussion with Dalian," Tugade said.

The 48 Dalian trains were delivered in 2016 but remained unused due to compatibility issues. The new coaches were part of the MRT3 expansion project, which aimed to decongest the railway system and increase its capacity to serve over 800,000 passengers daily.

The Department of Transportation said the Dalian trains exceeded the total weight stipulated in its contract. The DOTr specified that each train should weigh 46.4 tons. However the TUV Rheinland audit found out that each Dalian train weighed 49.7 tons.

During the Senate hearing on the MRT3 in February, an expert said the 48 Dalian trains were "not overweight" and within the allowable limit that the MRT3 tracks could carry.

"The report will be discussed with Dalian at sana ho huwag nating pangunahan. Kapag tapos na ang mga pag-uusap, kakausapin ko kayo on the firm and final position on these trains," Tugade said.

(The report will be discussed with Dalian and let's not pre-empt. When the discussions are done, I will talk to the public on the firm and final position on these trains.) – Rappler.com

Aika Rey

Aika Rey covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler. Before writing about politicians, she covered budget, labor, and transportation issues.

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