DOTC: Cases to be filed vs MRT3 personnel for 'gross neglect'
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Metro Rail Transit 3 (MRT3) mishap that injured at least 36 people and damaged the terminal Taft station was caused by a series of lapses by its personnel, officials said on Tuesday, August 19.
In a press conference, Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya said human error led to the derailing of MRT3 train #03 on August 13. The two train drivers involved in the incident failed to follow safety procedures in the train’s “coupling” procedure, he said.
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The trouble began when an MRT3 train on Wednesday, August 13, stalled in between the Magallanes and Taft stations. Following the MRT3’s protocols, another train – referred to as the “assisting train” – should disembark its passengers and push the stalled or “distressed train” to the nearest station.
The "distressed train" then turns off its breaks and is completely dependent on the "assisting train."
Somewhere between the Magallanes and Taft stations, the trains "uncoupled." It turned out, one of the drivers cranked the joining mechanism after the "coupling" procedure. "In his mind, he thought he followed procedure," said Abaya.
One of the drivers said the trains uncoupled "at the peak" of the Magallanes station, causing the "distressed train" to free fall before bulldozing through the station's safety barriers.
The DOTC also found out that there was “poor coordination” between the two train drivers and other personnel involved in train operations. Although both drivers coordinated with the Control Center Supervisor, they were not able to coordinate with the managers of the Magallanes and Taft stations.
Other lapses include:
- Violating procedure when the distressed train was brought to the Taft station instead of the Magallanes station, which is nearer
- No clear approval from the Control Center Supervisor when hauling began
- The assisting train went above approved speed – the station's barriers can only stop trains going at 15 kilometers per hour. The trains were going as fast as 40 km/h.
Abaya said the train drivers and train operations personnel involved will face administrative charges for "gross neglect, inefficiency in the performance of official functions, conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service and violation of reasonable office rules and regulations."
As of posting, the DOTC's legal team has yet to determine the kind of sanctions its personnel will face for the incident, but Abaya said the worst punishment would be termination and fortfeiture of their pensions and other benefits.
The MRT3's train drivers, however, are all contractual employees whose contracts are renewed every 6 months. Light Rail Transit Authority administrator and MRT3 officer-in-charge Honorito Chaneco said although they were contractual employees, they are entitled to the benefits of regular employees.
As a result of the investigation, Abaya said, the department would implement a re-training of MRT3 personnel and introduce “on-the-spot audits” of “divisions in-charge of the train drivers, control center, and engineering.” – Rappler.com