By  Lorenz S. Marasigan | Business Mirror | October 20, 2015

THE original supplier of the old trains of the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) Line 3 and a local rail- maintenance provider have teamed up to vie for the P4.3-billion maintenance contract of the mass-transit system.

Comm Builders & Technology Philippines Corp. (CB&T) President Roehl Bacar announced on Monday that his company has forged a cooperation agreement with Czech Republic tram-manufacturing company SKD Trade AS, the real successor company to CKD Tatra, the company that built and supplied the trains of Manila’s MRT.

The joint venture will be vying for the three-year maintenance deal of the line, and, according to Bacar, the group is in the best position to provide the upkeep needs of the most congested train system in Metro Manila. “We are proud to announce that we have signed this partnership agreement with SKD. We have learned that SKD’s factory, which was the factory of the old CKD, has all the spare parts available of the train model that we have now at the MRT, so this means we solve any problem or concerns on availability of spare parts or obsolesence,” he said.

CB&T, currently the short-term maintenance contractor for the MRT’s rolling stock and signalling systems, now has two cooperation agreements with two old name and reputable European firms that are original equipment manufacturer (OEM) of the train system’s trains and other equipment, having also forged a similar agreement with German rail technology firm Schunk Bahn und -Industrietechnik (SBI) late last year. Schunk Bahn is the OEM of the MRT’s pantographs.

CKD, the maker of the MRT’s trains, was taken over by Siemens Kolejova which then gave the license and assets of CKD to SKD Trade AS.

As such, SKD is the OEM of the RT8D5M model train specifically designed by CKD for Manila MRT 3 in the 1990s.

The Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) had earlier expressed in its bid bulletins a preference for OEM companies in the supply of the rolling stock and signalling systems.

“It is for the advantage of the government to use original equipment manufacturer parts to conform with the Czech-designed trains and to extend its lifespan until the periodic overhaul schedule of eight years. OEM parts also comes with warranty on defective parts which are replaced by the factory,” Bacar said.

He added that as an OEM, CB&T can supply to the government all needed train spare parts at the least possible price since there will be no unscrupulous brokers or middlemen who will put in “excessive” mark-ups.

The DOTC will conduct the emergency procurement for the deal this Wednesday.

The agency is targeting to award the contract within the fourth quarter this year, to enable the latter to take over from the seven multidiscipline contractors currently maintaining the rail line, by January 2016.

This long-term maintenance provider will not only undertake the regular maintenance requirements of the system over the next three years, it will also conduct the general overhaul of existing MRT 3 coaches, as well as the replacement of the signalling system.

The general overhaul is needed in order to improve the condition of the 16-year-old coaches, and the signalling system replacement will ensure safer operations throughout the line. The mass-transit system, which ferries more than half a million passengers daily, may be characterized to be in a state of decay. Every day, passengers complain of long queues caused by the lack of light rail vehicles, its humid train cars, and faulty elevators and escalators. These are all caused by the lack of proper maintenance, rehabilitation and upgrades. Earlier this year, German firms 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 from the northern and southern corridors of Metro Manila.

The P4.64-billion proposal, submitted in February with Filipino partner CB&T, 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.

This, along with two other unsolicited proposals, are left to gather dust in the office of Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio A. Abaya.

Today, the rail line’s average daily ridership is already over 560,000, and its highest single-day passenger count is 620,000. It has a rated capacity of 350,000 passengers per day.