Manila Bulletin | August 20, 2014

One of the most dismaying sights in Metro Manila these days is that of hundreds of people waiting in lines two to three blocks long just to enter Metro Rail Transit (MRT) stations along Epifanio de los Santos Ave. during rush hours. Along with the older Light Rail Transit (LRT) that runs from Caloocan through Rizal Ave. and Taft Ave. to Baclaran in Parañaque City, the

MRT serve thousands of daily commuters who find it more convenient (no traffic jams) and need its lower fares.

Once in a while in the past, a train would stall somewhere because of some electrical problem and the passengers would have to walk along the tracks to the nearest station to get to the ground, but that was not very often. It was the congestion of passengers that was the biggest problem. To help ease the situation for women and senior citizens, some coaches were reserved for them.

Last week, however, for the first time, an accident caused injuries to over 36 passengers. A train crashed through the barriers that marked the end of the line at the Taft station in Pasay City. A few days later, another train malfunctioned on the way to the Santolan station in Quezon City. Then another train stalled at the Buendia station in Makati City.

Clearly, there is something amiss in the maintenance of the MRT trains. It has been 15 years since the MRT started its operations and it has not undergone any major rehabilitation for lack of funds. In contrast, a spokesman said, the 30-year-old LRT has been overhauled and its major parts replaced. The MRT was built to ferry 350,000 passengers daily but it is now ferrying 560,000, the spokesman added.

The Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), under which the MRT is operating, is in the process of getting new trains. It is also preparing to bid out a new maintenance contract. The Pasay City incident where a train rammed its barrier, resulting in injuries to 39 people, has raised the element of urgency to the problem.

What if the train that crashed through its barrier was on elevated tracks? This has happened in the case of buses on the skyway along the South Expressway. What if a train jampacked with commuters on the elevated tracks above EDSA fell on equally jampacked buses on the ground?

The MRT and the DOTC should not wait to find out. They should spare no effort to look into the Pasay incident and take all possible measures to see that it does not happen again.