By Chrisee Jalyssa V. Dela Paz | Business Worlds Online | March 19, 2015

THE TRANSPORTATION department said it will decide on unsolicited proposals to upgrade Metro Manila’s most congested elevated railway by next month, but added that there could be some overlap with current works to rehabilitate Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT-3).

“We promised them last week to decide on their unsolicited proposals in a month’s time. But since upgrades are ongoing -- especially rail replacement works, toilet upgrades, and procurement of traction motors, which will be done by September -- there could be some redundancy if we accept one of the proposals,” Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio A. Abaya told reporters on the sidelines of an event in Mandaluyong City on Thursday.

The Department of Transportation and Communications (DoTC) last month received a P23.3-billion unsolicited proposal from Metro Pacific Investments Corp. to upgrade and rehabilitate the rail line.

MPIC’s fresh offer, a scaled-down version of a P25.1-billion proposal submitted in 2011, will involve the rehabilitation of existing train cars, 25 additional coaches, a new signaling system, and settlement of equity rental payments in favor of government financial institutions.

The department also received last month a P4.65-billion rehabilitation and upgrade proposal from a joint venture of German firms Schunk Bahn-und Industrietechnik GmbH and HEAG mobilo GmbH and local partner Comm Builders and Technology Philippines Corp.

The joint venture said in its two-page letter to the Transportation department that its proposal “would address the ancillary power, consider... 48 new trains, new stabling area, new elevators and escalators, new public address system, public information system, new toilets, platform gates, CCTV, signaling system, rail replacement and rail grinding.”

On Thursday, Mr. Abaya told reporters during the briefing that his department is “still inclined to do an open, transparent bidding rather than accepting an unsolicited proposal.”

“Besides, we’re already doing some of their proposals,” he added.

He also provided the following updates on the status of its MRT-3 improvement efforts:

• All 63 toilets of the MRT-3 system will be rehabilitated by September this year, with the first two toilets to be completed next month.

• The procurement deal for 60 traction motors is set to be awarded next month with the contract to be completed in February next year, after the department received three bids on Wednesday.

• The Transportation department will submit its request to the Government Procurement Policy Board next week to undertake an emergency procurement exercise for MRT-3’s maintenance provider, with a decision expected after Easter.

The improvement effort is part of the P9.7 billion in MRT-3 Rehabilitation and Capacity Expansion projects the department is currently implementing.

The complete overhaul of MRT-3 is expected to be done within the term of President Benigno S. C. Aquino III, which include the procurement of additional coaches, train general overhauling, ancillary system upgrades, platform edge doors, signaling system upgrades, rail replacement, communications system upgrades, traction motor replacement, and the improvement of the overhead catenary system.

The projects being considered also include security fences and noise barriers, consulting services, upgrades to conveyance facilities, a footbridge for the North Avenue Station, weather protection cladding, Internet connections, passenger information systems, and passenger hand straps.

Other than these developments, Mr. Abaya said that MRT-3 will undergo another round of rail replacement works this coming weekend.

“This time, however, regular Saturday operating hours will be observed, and the Sunday opening will be at 10:00 am,” he added.

Around 192 meters worth of rails will be replaced on the northbound tracks between the Taft Avenue and Magallanes stations of MRT-3, according to Mr. Abaya.

The DoTC and MRT-3 will also receive the recently procured 7,296 linear meters worth of brand new steel rails by June 2015. “These will be used for further rail replacement works later this year to better assure the railway’s safety and reliability,” he said.

MRT-3 is currently maintained by the Autre Porte Technique Global, Inc. (APT Global), which is under fire for the railway’s technical and safety lapses, including having the train run with its doors open.

Until the government awards the three-year contract to a new service provider, APT Global will continue to be in charge of the 16.9-kilometer rail system’s upkeep.