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Tuesday, November 28, 2023

MRT mess

The Department of Transportation finally terminated its contract with Busan Universal Railways Inc. for the maintenance of the Metro Railway Transit 3 (MRT 3) system that runs along Edsa. The agency cited Busan’s failure to put reliable and efficient trains in operation and the company’s inability to implement a feasible procurement plan for spare parts.

But will the government, which made a mess in running the rail transit before, do a better job this time? The MRT 3 appears to suffer from design flaws that may require an overhaul as claimed by the maintenance contractor. Will the DOTr look into the fundamental problem of the transportation system, or will it just name a new contractor without delving into the issues pointed out by Busan?

DoTr Secretary Arthur Tugade knows fully well that the the MRT 3 problem cannot be solved by merely changing contractors. He has to find long-term solutions to the rail system that serves thousands of commuters daily. Without a skilled maintenance operator, the MRT 3 service has deteriorated further in less than week since Tugade’s department fired Busan. The long queues formed by commuters in every station have stretched and more rail cars were unavailable.

Few perhaps will question Tugade’s intentions in ending Busan’s contract. “It cannot be overemphasized that what is at stake here is the welfare and interest of the riding public… This office could not just sit back and wait while watching Buri trifle and flirt with the lives of the commuting public, with its substandard performance,” says Tugade.

Did the Transportation chief, however, listen to the side of the contractor? Busan has long argued that the MRT 3 glitches were more reasonably due to design flaws than mainly maintenance issues. The contractor noted that through the years, the deterioration of the rails and passenger loading above the intended usage only worsened the system’s condition and resulted in more glitches. It repeatedly reminded the DOTr about the need to replace the rail to address the system’s overload.

The service interruptions and derailments may not be a result of poor maintenance, but rather by system and the design flaws and conditions of the MRT 3. But is the government listening?

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