Benjamin B. Pulta  | The Daily Tribune | September 15, 2016

Private owners of the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT-3) have insisted maintenance problems continue to pose a threat to the lives of the riding public.

"The reports of cracks in the wheels of the MRT are alarming and a serious threat to the lives of commuters," MRT Corp. director Rafael Perez de Tagle said.

The poor condition of the rail tracks, a result of poor maintenance after Sumitomo Corp. was replaced by other maintenance operators and overloading of trains to almost twice its original capacity, has caused extreme stress on the rail system.

Metal cracks were detected in all four pairs of bogey wheel frames in Car No. 04 and Car No. 48, Car No. 11 and Car No. 64 are likewise damaged.

"The possibility of derailment has not been addressed," De Tagle warned. "Just like under the past administration, instead of addressing the problems, the maintenance provider is feeding the public misinformation to save face, at the risk of the lives of commuters."

A representative of the current maintenance operator of MRT-3, the joint venture of Tramat Mercantile Inc., Edison Development & Construction, TMI Corp. Inc., Castan Corp. and Busan Transportation Corp., was earlier reported by a TVv news outfit as giving the excuse that the MRT could not increase speed to the required 60 kilometers per hour during peak hours because the MRT was allegedly designed not as light rail vehicles but as street cars.

"That's ridiculous," De Tagle said. "When Sumitomo was maintaining the MRT, it ran at 60 kph and 20 sets of trains were operated at the peak hour in the morning and in the afternoon. That is the speed of the train with proper maintenance and it was so for 12 years so it is incredulous for the Tramat Mercantile-Busan Group to say that the problem is design."

The MRTC director explained the MRT-3 trains are three times longer in length and can carry heavier loads than trams or street cars, putting them under the classification of LRV, contrary to the misinformation being spread by Busan. Street cars also carry much less passengers and have frequent stops like a bus.

De Tagle added past administrations of the DoTC (Department of Transportation and Communications) also ensured that all the specifications and performance capabilities are of the specifications and performance of an LRV.

"It is a stretch to call these tram cars," De Tagle said. "The reason why the trains are not running at the required speed is because of poor maintenance since 2012 that damaged and continue to damage the trains."

De Tagle expressed the disappointment of the MRT private owners in the continued mishandling and misinformation on the MRT.

"Under Sumitomo, there was at least 80% availability at all times," De Tagle explained.

"Today, it's 80% excuses and misinformation. Nothing has changed since the time of Abaya," De Tagle said. "Worse, the MRT general manager, Roman Buenafe, still won't allow an inspection of the trains by private owners. What are they hiding?" he asked.