Nicole-Anne C. Lagrimas | GMA News | November 7, 2017

Services of the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 are improving, two days after the Department of Transportation officially terminated its contract with the "poorly performing" maintenance provider, a DOTr official said Thursday.

In an interview on "Unang Balita," DOTr Undersecretary Cesar Chavez said there were no unloading incidents during peak hours on Wednesday, a "good indicator" of improving train performance.

But earlier reports said the train system actually unloaded passengers four times on Wednesday, and twice on Tuesday.

Moreover, Chavez said that 15 trains have so far been deployed Thursday morning, with two others being readied for service at the train depot, which should help decrease the rush hour queues at MRT stations.

"Mula nung Lunes, na masama ang serbisyo; Martes, masama; nag-improve tayo ng Wednesday, ngayong Thursday, expect natin better than yesterday, sapagkat mas marami tayong tren, mas marami tayong technician..." he said.

Technicians formerly with the axed maintenance provider, Busan Universal Rail, Incorporated (BURI), were absorbed by the DOTr and were working "with inspiration" given an assurance that they will be paid on time, said Chavez.

"Ang strategy namin ngayon, yung 15 train sets, maprotektahan, maayos, amging reliable. Pangalawa, mabawasan yung unloading incidents. Pangatlo, maging reliable ang 16, 17, 18 at kung kaya namin, 20 train sets. Kapag meron tayong 18 train sets at walang unloading incidents, mababawasan yung pila diyan, lalong-lalo na sa umaga."

He also requested passengers riding at North Avenue Station to adjust their travel time 30 minutes earlier.

MRT3 trains are notorious for random breakdowns due to unspecified technical problems, causing inconveniences almost on a daily basis.

But Chavez assured the public that the MRT is safe, the same assurance he made to Senator Grace Poe, also saying that a team senior engineers is intact.

Only the top-level management of BURI was sacked, while the rest of the technical team, including senior engineers with experience working with the train line's previous service provider Sumitomo, are still with the Department of Transportation.

"Meron tayong technical capability dito. Ginawa na natin ito before. Yung LRT nagkaroon din tayo ng maintenance transition team, walang private sector doon, maayos, matino, napapatakbo. Yung lIne 2 ganun din...ganun din ang gagawin natin dito."

He added the DOTr has formed a maintenance transition team as the department negotiates the terms of procurement for a new maintenance provider.

"Pero ang plano natin, mga hanggang three months lang to, o kaya't six months, sapagkat ongoing na rin ang negotiation natin, ang procurement natin para doon sa magiging maintenance provider na gusto natin ay technically and financially competent sa pagmamantene ng train system," he said.

The DOTr ended its contact with BURI on the following grounds, which BURI claimed were "bereft of factual and legal basis:"

  • Failure to put in service and subsequently ensure the availability of the contractually obligated number of trains, and failure to put in operation reliable and efficient trains;
  • Failure to implement a feasible procurement plan for spare parts; and
  • Failure to comply with the contractual requirement of a complete and up to date Computerized Maintenance Management System.

Disputing a claim by BURI that the train line's main problem is the rail tracks, Chavez said in the interview that the private firm's job was to overhaul 43 trains, which they allegedly failed to do.

"By this time, Novmber 2017, dapat 26 na ang na-overhaul nila. Ang katunayan, ang na-overhaul pa lang nila dalawa, plus one, at yung na-overhaul nila ay di pa kompleto. Kung na-overhaul nila yan, di dapat sana walang pagtirik," he said.

He also said BURI had hardly bought spare parts, particularly from Bombardier Ltd., the official manufacturer of the train line's signaling equipment. Signaling problems often cause train malfunctions.

"Ni-isang piyesa walang binili sa kanila. 'Yan ay nadokumentado. Kung bumili sana sila ng signaling parts, eh sana nabawasan ang pagtirik."

Incumbent transportation officials have also lodged a graft complaint against their predecessors, including former transportation chief Jose Emilio Abaya, over the MRT3 mess.