Inna Christine Cabel & Charlotte Furigay | BusinessMirror | June 19, 2017

QUEUEING up to ride the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) Line 3 may take a bit longer than usual, as the transportation department implemented safety measures that significantly reduced the speed of the train system, as it conducts an audit of what it found to be an irregularity in the system's hardware.

From 40 kilometers per hour (kph), trains fielding the railway line have started to run at a reduced speed of 20 kph due to Tuesday's broken wheel-axle incident, which, for Transportation Undersecretary Cesar B. Chavez, should be prudently inspected and corrected before it could do any more harm.

"This is part of the process for us to ensure the safety of our passengers," he said. "It is necessary for us to do it." The inspection will run for at least four days, he said.

MRT 3 Director for Operations Deo Leo N. Manalo clarified that the four-day period is just an estimate, assuring passengers that the maintenance team is focused in completing the safety inspection at the soonest possible time for the rail line to be able to deploy additional trains.

"We will do everything to complete it earlier," Manalo said. Over the last three months, there have been multiple major incidents in the MRT 3, such as the derailment of bogies, and smoke emission from a train car.

Chavez added that only 17 out of 20 train sets will be deployed during peak hours. This means that the current four-to seven-minute headway will be increased, hence, longer waiting time for passengers to board the trains.

After the four-day inspection, the train's speed will then be increased to 30 kph, which was recommended by maintenance contractor Busan Transportation Corp.

As a temporary response, the transportation department and Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board are working together to deploy additional city buses to give MRT 3 passengers an alternative mode of transportation.

Mid and long-term solutions, according to Chavez, are also under way. He cited, for instance, the project to upgrade of the ancillary systems of the facility. The deal aims to double the power capacity of the train system, hence, increasing its capability to use more trains.

Such a project is expected to be completed by November 11, based on a Busan report.

He noted other ongoing projects may be completed by the second quarter of 2018. This includes the systematic rail replacement and a planned general overhaul for old trains. The train system has been in an almost constant state of decay over the last few years due to government underspending, and legal tussles between the facility's owner and the state.

Such problems had caused many inconveniences to the more than 500,000 daily riders of the train system.