Lorenz S. Marasigan | Business Mirror | February 27, 2016

THE private owner of Metro Rail Transit (MRT) Line 3 proposed over the weekend to fix the train line for a period of at least nine months to bring service levels back to normal.

However, the government should agree to proposal first, before MRT Holdings Inc. (MRTH) could implement the multibillion-peso rehabilitation project that the owners said will be at no cost to the state.

“Let the private sector implement its proposal. We could basically bring back the ridership level in a period of nine months to a year,” Robert John L. Sobrepeña, MRTH chairman, said in an interview.

Currently, the train system serves about 300,000 commuters daily, below its rated capacity of 350,000 passengers a day, since it is only running at a little more than half of its capacity, as its trains have either been cannibalized for parts or are simply not working.

Hence, the congestion being experienced by commuters on a daily basis. “Within a period of 12 months, we will do rapid overhauling. We will also change the 19 kilometers of rail that are now dilapidated. Sumitomo Corp. and Mitsubishi will be tapped for this project precisely because they built the system, they know its intricacies more than anyone in the world,” Sobrepeña said.

Together with Sumitomo Corp. of Japan and Globalvia Infrastructuras of Spain, Metro Global Holdings Inc. is proposing to fix the ailing system through a $150-million investment that involves the procurement of a total of 96 new train cars, and the rehabilitation of the existing 73 coaches, increasing its capacity by fourfold to 1.2 million passengers a day.

Under the proposal, a single point of responsibility will be implemented: The rehabilitation and the maintenance of the line will be handled by a single company.

Sobrepeña said the same proposal was sent to the Department of Transportation and Communications in 2012, but offers to develop the line were already in place even before President Aquino took office in 2010.

Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio A. Abaya has yet to reply to this proposal, but said the government is not bent on implementing unsolicited offers.

Two other proposals to fix the train line were sent to the transport department.

Under its proposal, the group of businessman Manuel V. Pangilinan, which earlier entered into a partnership agreement with the corporate owner of the MRT, intends to spend $524 million to overhaul the line.

This amount, which will be shouldered by Metro Pacific Investments Corp., will be used to expand the capacity of the railway system by adding more coaches to each train, allowing it to carry more people at faster intervals.

The multimillion-dollar expansion plan would double the capacity of the line to 700,000 passengers a day, from the current 350,000 passengers daily.

Also, when executed, the project will effectively release the government from paying billions of pesos in equity rental payments.

It was submitted in 2011, but then Transportation Secretary Manuel A. Roxas II rejected the proposal. The infrastructure giant submitted a revised proposal to the Congress in 2014.

On the other hand, German companies Schunk Bahn-und Industrietechnik GmbH and HEAG Mobilo GmbH are seeking to place whole train system under a massive transformation program to augment its capacity and to provide a safe and comfortable travel to commuters.

The P4.64-billion proposal, submitted in February last year with Filipino partner Comm Builders and Technology Phils. Corp., calls for the complete overhaul of the 73 light-rail vehicles of the MRT; the replacement of the rails; the upgrading of the line’s ancillary system; the upgrade of the track circuit and signaling systems; the modernization of the conveyance system; and a three-year maintenance contract.

Under the amended build-operate- transfer law, the government has to inform the proponent whether it accepts or rejects an unsolicited proposal within 120 days.

The government has programmed a P9.7-billion multiyear program to enhance the service levels of the MRT. This includes the procurement of new train cars to expand the capacity of the rail facility.