MRT-3 revenue declines due to fewer trains, safety issues

MANILA The decline in the revenue of the Metro Rail Transit-3 (MRT-3) in 2018 was due to the reduction of operating trains for safety issues, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) clarified.

The DOTr issued a statement in response to a Commission on Audit (COA) report released last week on the decrease in MRT-3 ridership from 140,152,161 in 2017 to 104,275,362 in 2018, resulting in a decrease of more than PHP700 million in revenue from ticket sales.

"The number of reliable and safe trains available to MRT 3 in 2018 went down due to years of neglect, bad maintenance practices, and failure to undertake scheduled overhaul and upgrading works," the statement read.

MRT-3's former maintenance contractor, Busan Universal Rail, Inc. (BURI), practiced force deployment of trains regardless of reliability and safety, causing hundreds of unloading incidents each year from 2012 to 2017, the DOTr said.

"Force deployment of unreliable and unsafe trains may have been caused by a policy of payment to maintenance providers based on the number of deployed trains, regardless of whether those trains break down during operations," it said.

The practice was stopped after the termination of BURI's contract in 2017 and the 26-month comprehensive rehabilitation by Sumitomo Heavy Industries started in May 2019.

This is why since the MRT-3 Maintenance Transition Team (MTT) took over after the termination of BURI in November 2017, measures have been taken to only deploy trains that are safe and reliable, the statement read.

As a result, unloading incidents in the MRT-3 decreased to 57 in 2018 and only 19 incidents so far in 2019, as compared to 292 in 2012 to 453 in 2017.

Degraded tracks, obsolete systems

The proper maintenance of railway tracks was also ignored by earlier maintenance providers, which resulted in premature rail degradation from the projected 80 to 100-year usability of the MRT-3 tracks.

The MRT-3's wheel lathe machine was also inoperable from 2014 up to BURI's termination in November 2017, which resulted in rough train wheels, further worsening rail degradation.

The MRT-3 MTT successfully restored the wheel lathe machine in March 2019.

Another failure, which the DOTr ascribed to BURI, was the failure to upgrade the railway's signaling system even though a budget for such upgrade was provided in the General Appropriations Act of 2014.

BURI was supposed to implement the signaling upgrade, but had not even started doing so when it was terminated in November 2017, the DOTr said.

Degraded tracks compounded by an obsolete signaling system resulted in lower operating speed of 30 kph from the previous 60 kph and increased headway between trains of 7.5 to 10 minutes from the previous 3.5 minutes.

MRT-3 rehab

Through an Official Development Assistance loan with a 40-year, 0.1 percent interest per annum and a 12-year grace period from the Japanese government, Sumitomo was contracted to rehabilitate the MRT-3 which is expected to be completed by July 2021.

By then, the ridership of the beleaguered rail transit is expected to increase from the current workday average of 320,000 to 650,000.

Last July, 4,053 pieces of 18-meter rails arrived three months ahead of schedule from Nippon Steel Corp. in Fukuoka, Japan meant to replace all tracks along the MRT-3's 17-kilometer line as part of the MRT-3 rehabilitation project.

Under the project, Sumitomo will overhaul all 72 Light Rail Vehicles of the MRT-3, replace all mainline tracks, rehabilitate power and overhead catenary systems, upgrade the signaling system, communications and CCTV systems, and repair all of MRT-3's escalators and elevators, among other repairs and improvements. (PNA)

Source: Philippines News Agency

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