FIFTEEN train sets—or about 75 percent of its rated maximum capacity—should run on the tracks of the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) Line 3 starting today, Monday, after the government successfully restored 45 train cars over the Holy Week break.
Aly V. Narvaez, a spokesman of the MRT 3, said the government hopes to meet its target of mounting 15 train sets on the railway line today to provide a better commuting experience to the riders of the facility.
“We have restored 45 cars already, but we have yet to assess if we can already deploy the 15 train sets tomorrow [Monday],” she told the BusinessMirror last Sunday afternoon.
Narvaez explained that the government still needs to do a safety audit on the light rail vehicles restored last Sunday night. But she assured that there should be at least 13 trains ready for revenue operations.
“They will undergo safety checks and test runs tonight [Sunday] to ensure that they are in good condition for revenue operations, especially when some of these cars were down for quite some time,” she said.
Before the Holy Week—when train operators usually do their full-blast maintenance work for their train systems—there were 13 trains operating.
“If all cars are okay after the checks, if not 15, we could deploy about 13 to 14 train sets, and usually leave a spare train in case of removals,” Narvaez said.
But given the influx of commuters on Monday, the government will “definitely have to deploy 15 trains” should all 45 cars pass all operational checks.
“We have already checked them earlier today [Sunday], but we have to redo the checks tonight and early on Monday morning. This is how thorough the preparatory works are, since they’re part of the safety measures,” Narvaez said.
The government currently maintains the railway facility through a “maintenance transition team,” which it deployed last year, after firing its upkeep contractor for its alleged mishandling of its contract.
The MRT has been a huge headache for both commuters and the government since 2012, when major issues sprouted out of poor maintenance works done by contractors.
And the government is hell-bent on addressing the issues plaguing the facility—a privately owned, but government-operated infrastructure—soon.
Narvaez said the audit being done by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) would soon be completed. This will determine the possible steps on how to move forward with the chronic problems of the facility.
“Our direction is still to bid out the rehabilitation and maintenance of MRT in partnership with Japan. Next steps will be identified after the audit,” she said. “The Jica audit is almost complete; there are some data that just need validation.”
The Philippine government is seeking to be granted an official development assistance financing package for the overhaul and maintenance of the MRT 3.
The government is currently directly engaging Sumitomo Corp. and its technical partner Mitsubishi Heavy Industries for the upkeep of the MRT 3. The two companies designed, built and maintained the MRT 3 in its first 12 years of operations. The Japanese maintenance provider will be mobilized for three years to May 2021.
Sumitomo’s maintenance contract was terminated in 2012, after the previous government decided to take over the component despite contrary provisions in the build-lease-transfer contract with MRT Corp.
The government is also considering the multibillion-peso unsolicited proposal of Metro Pacific Investments Corp. for the MRT 3.
The group submitted in 2017 a P30-billion unsolicited proposal that involves the expansion of the capacity of the railway system by adding more coaches to each train, allowing it to carry more cars at faster intervals.
It would double the capacity of the line to 700,000 passengers a day, from the current 350,000 passengers daily. The multimillion-dollar expansion is deemed as an all-encompassing deal, including the improvement of the reliability of rolling stock, the upgrading of power supply, the upgrading of stations and the replacement of rails, which will allow the company to operate the new trains purchased by the government from Chinese train manufacturer Dalian.
Unsolicited proposals are required, under the law, to be subjected to a Swiss challenge, wherein other groups can offer a similar proposal, and the original proponent can present a counter offer.
The government awarded the original-proponent status to the company last year.
The unsolicited proposal for the MRT mimicked the same provisions under its concession agreement for the Light Rail Transit 1 operations and modernization deal, which it bagged in 2014 via the Public-Private Partnership Program.
It means that, instead of having a different operator and maintenance provider, the group will be the one to do both, something that the Sobrepeña group has been pushing for since the government forcibly took over the upkeep of the facility in 2012.