CNN Philippines | November 25, 2017

The government is studying all options to improve the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT-3), including the private owner's offer to take care of the poorly maintained trains.

"Please know that options are being explored and pursued to restore MRT-3's reliability and improve public service," the Department of Transportation (DOTr) said in a statement sent to CNN Philippines on Saturday.

The Metro Rail Transit Corporation (MRTC), the government's private sector partner, on Friday said it can fix problems of the MRT-3 in six months.

"We have the capability to fix the system. We are very confident that we can fix it," MRTC President Frederick Parayno said.

He said the MRTC expressed its offer in a letter to the DOTr last October 20.

After consecutive technical glitches, the government temporarily took over the maintenance of the MRT-3 from Busan Universal Rail Incorporated (BURI) on November 6, citing poor performance.

The DOTr said possible replacements to BURI are Singapore MRT, Japan's Sumitomo which was the MRT's former contractor, and French firm RATP which works on the Light Rail Transit Line 1.

Transportation Undersecretary for Rails Cesar Chavez said the government is also considering the ₱20-billion unsolicited proposal that the Metro Pacific Investments Corp. offered in October 2017 to take over the MRT-3's operation and maintenance.

Private owner's plans

The MRTC plans to bring Sumitomo Corporation back in the picture. It was the Japanese company that designed, built, and initially maintained the MRT-3 system for 12 years. Its contract expired in 2012.

Sumitomo is willing to buy $50 million (P2.5 billion) worth of spare parts, and bring in 100 engineers to inspect and fix the system as soon as possible, Parayno said, citing initial talks with the foreign company.

"When we were doing the technical maintenance with Sumitomo as our technical provider, wala naman kayong nakikitang problema. Nakakapagsakay kami ng (You did not see a problem. We were able to accommodate) what was expected of us," Parayno said.

MRT3's most recent maintenance provider, BURI, however, claims the MRT-3 has been suffering from numerous glitches even under Sumitomo's maintenance.

The train system unloaded passengers due to technical glitches 300 to 500 times every year under Sumitomo, BURI said, citing data from the MRT-3 management.

In 2016, under BURI's maintenance, the MRT-3 unloaded passengers due to technical glitches 544 times.

BURI said glitches happened because the MRT-3's design is flawed.

"Sinabi namin na because of the excessive vibrations, masisira ang buong sistema, the trains, the rolling stock, tapos madaling maghiwalay yung coupler (We said the system will break down because of excessive vibrations, the trains, the rolling stock, and the coupler will easily be detached)," said Maricris Pahate, BURI's legal counsel.

"During the design investigation, the trains are actually trams, hindi siya dapat kabit kabit (they should not be connected)," Pahate added.

A coupler is a device that connects train cars. This broke in a northbound train from Ayala Station during the Thursday morning rush hour, forcing over a hundred passengers to walk along the tracks for 10 minutes to get to safety.

The MRT traverses six cities from Pasay in the south to Caloocan in the north and serves half a million people each day. It runs only 20 three-coach trains at most during peak hours due to power constraints.