By Rey E. Requejo | Manila Standard Today | February 3, 2015

Citing the “alarming state” of the Metro Rail Transit-3, the chairman of MRT Holdings II Inc. has called on the government to speed up the rehabilitation of the country’s elevated mass transit system along EDSA.

“Fast-tracking the rehabilitation is key and foremost. It must be done to assure the safety of the riding public as there are reports that as few as 40 railcars out of the 73-car fleet are operational, which is very alarming,” MRTH-II chairman Robert Sobrepeña told the Senate committee on public services.

Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya (center) and Robert John Sobrepena, chairman of Metro Rail Holdings, during the public hearing on MRT fare hike. LINO SANTOS

“Once the fast-track rehabilitation is done by a credible company with proven track record and financial capacity, then the MRT-3 can operate at its original capacity again and the long waiting lines at stations will be greatly minimized,” he said.

MRTH-II has already presented to the DoTC its proposal to rehabilitate the MRT-3 system.

Sobrepeña said the rehabilitation and proper maintenance of the system cannot wait.

“Top priority continues to be the safety issues that should have been resolved months ago. The MTR Hong Kong report released last December 8, 2014 confirms the alarming state of the MRT-3 system that we have been warning the public about,” he added.

Sobrepeña noted that MTR report highlighted the need to replace the current rails.

“The present maintenance provider has admitted that it has no spare rails. Clearly, rails must be bought. The system is already under an emergency situation. A worldwide search must be made to find a ready and steady supply of rails from a reputable manufacturer,” he said.

“In addition, the system must also be restored back to having all 73 cars operable to reduce not only the long queues but safety concerns as well,” Sobrepeña added.

MTR Hong Kong noted in its 169-page report that the track condition is “most alarming and requires immediate attention.”

“Replacement of defective track sections is recommended but it is noticed that there is insufficient stock. Machine rail grinding to control the growth of developing defect is also not done,” the audit report read.

“The availability of rolling stock vehicles cannot meet the availability performance requirement for service in peak hours. Traction motor has exhibited the most failures and it should be reviewed if overhaul or full replacement would be required. The reliability of door system and ATP equipment also need to be improved.”

Sobrepeña noted that as early as October 1, during the first Senate hearing on MRT-3, his group has already expressed fear that there would be no successful bid for the maintenance of the system unless the rehabilitation is made part of the contract.

“We stressed as well the primary importance of restoring the single point of responsibility leading to a fully guaranteed availability of 73 LRVs in running condition on EDSA,” he said.

The Department of Transportation and Communications has since then held two bids for a maintenance provider which have both failed.

“To attract bidders, the DoTC even relaxed the terms of the second bidding. This would be a step in the wrong direction as what is needed is the stricter implementation of safety requirements and measures,” he said.