by Cathy Rose A. Garcia, | December 18, 2014

MANILA, Philippines - Passengers using the Metro Rail Transit 3 (MRT-3) continue to endure long queues, broken escalators and filthy comfort rooms, Senator Grace Poe said on Wednesday.

At a Senate hearing, Poe grilled officials from the Department of Transportation and Communications and MRT on their efforts to improve the MRT facilities. She urged them to address these issues immediately.

Poe presented results of an informal survey conducted by her office on the MRT passengers' total riding experience. The survey covered various aspects such as queues, comfort rooms, escalators and elevators and air conditioning.

Based on the informal survey, Poe noted long lines were observed for most of the stations, with queues forming at Ayala Station as early as 6 a.m.

Some passengers lining up at Quezon Avenue during rush hour noted it would take 30 minutes just to reach the first step of the stairs of the station, while in Ayala, it can take more than 2 hours to just board the train.

Poe was also not pleased with the findings about the state of the comfort rooms at most MRT stations.

"Sa Quezon Ave, masamang-masama po ang condisyon ng ating mga banyo, madumi, hindi nagfuflush, mahina ang tubig... How can we educate our passengers with hygenie and cleanliness if we can't even keep our facilities clean and well-maintained. This is unacceptable," she said.

MRT passengers also complained that most escalators and elevators are not working and that air conditioning was not enough to handle the crowded trains.

Poe released a report card for the MRT stations (1 - excellent, 3 - passing and 5 - fail), with several stations getting failing scores.

The MRT stations that received a failing score of 5 were GMA-Kamuning, Cubao, Shaw Boulevard and Taft. Receiving a score of 4 were Quezon Ave, Ortigas, Boni Ave. and Guadalupe.

The stations that received the highest scores were Ayala and Magallanes with 2.5.

MRT officer-in-charge Renato San Jose admitted they are having difficulty dealing with the huge number of passengers, especially with the lower speed being implemented for MRT trains.

"Hindi po namin ipinagkakaila na siksikan sa MRT, dahil sa ngayon ay ang ating speed from 65 kph to 45 kph dahil sa safety concerns. Dati na kaya ang 23,640 passengers per hour per direction, ngayon 17,700 passengers na lang ang ang kakayanan na ma-transport dahil sa speed ng tren. Maliban doon dahil sa ating mga tren kailangan ng overhaul, ang availabiluity from December 1 to 15 ay 17 trains during peak hours and 14.8 during off-peak. Lahat po ito ay nag-cocontribute sa inconvenience sa mga pasahero," San Jose said.

As for the elevators and escalators, San Jose said they will be rehabilitated next year.

"Sa third quarter ng 2015. Kasi ang pag-gawa at pag-rehab ng elevators at escalators ay 6-8 months," he said.

For his part, MRT Holdings chairman Robert Sobrepena warned the MRT's problems will continue unless the government finds the right maintenance provider.

"It's hard to get a maintenance provider to maintain a broken-down system that is in dire need of rehab... I have always espoused the maintenance provider must also undertake the comlete rehab of the system and go back to the single point of responsibility," he said during the hearing.

MRT Holdings earlier proposed the government tap the services of Japanese company Sumitomo again.

The bidding for a new maintenance provider will take place in January. - With ANC