By Federico D. Pascual JR. | The Philippine Star | November 6, 2014
SAFETY LAST: The Department of Transportation and Communications appears to be compromising public safety while covering up for the poor maintenance of the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT3) running on EDSA.
Instead of focusing on safety, Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya simply distracts the riding public with talk of a possible government buyout of the MRT and the purchase next year of 48 Chinese imitation coaches to augment the aging Czech-designed trains.
How can the maintenance provider APT Global ensure safety of passengers when it does not bother to buy replacement rails and other critical spare parts — as it must do under its P57-million-per-month contract?
The state of disrepair of the MRT is so bad that prospective maintenance outfits are scared to bid to take over the decrepit system.
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NO MORE RAILS: When the Japanese firm Sumitomo Corp. was the maintenance provider from 2000 to 2012, more than half of its budget was allocated to the purchase of spare parts, per contract. Under APT Global, it seems there is no purchase.
• Sumitomo left 86 stock rails upon turnover to PH Trams (the interim maintenance provider before APT Global won the bid in 2012).
• A DOTC memo dated Sept. 4 revealed that last year under APT Global there were only 29 stock rails left, and as of last month only 2.5 rails left.
The maintenance provider must be using old rails instead of new ones, which is against contract and dangerous to the riding public. Some damaged rails were reportedly welded and – my gawd! – just hammered back to shape.
A recent inspection of the depot, a source said, showed that maintenance have been using rails from the LRT2 that is run and maintained by the government. The MRT is maintained by a private contractor paid P57 million a month that covers cost of rails and spare parts.
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AUDIT FINDINGS: The scary situation was confirmed in the technical audit by MTR Hong Kong that was requested by the private owners (MRT Corp.) in March 2014 and finally conducted last September.
The MTR HK draft audit report said among other things:
• The overall assessment of the trackwork condition is unsatisfactory and there is insufficient track maintenance. With a network length of 33.8 km, several track defects were observed related to wheelburn/shelling.
• There is an increasing trend of broken rail failure as well as rail corrugation. While there were only four cases of broken rail failures from 2011 to 2012 under Sumitomo, there were 11 cases from 2012 to 2013 and, worst, 22 cases between 2013 and 2014 under APT Global.
• More breakdowns due to rail fatigue can be expected. This cannot be corrected by extra trains or press releases. The rails have to be replaced first.