MANILA – The Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) gave their word and promised the public that commuting via the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) 3 is safe despite warnings of foreign rail experts on the aging mass transportation system.
According to Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya, derailment accident will not happen as predicted by experts from Hong Kong.
Mass Transit Railway (MTR) experts were commission from Hong Kong to assess the condition of the rail line after the incident that happened last August 3 wherein at least 36 commuters were hurt after a train went out of its tracks. The report of the MTR experts were submitted during last Monday’s hearing.
However, Abaya defended the MRT 3 incident saying “any train in the world (can get) derailed, we’ve seen derailment of the best trains in Europe. That is a fact.”
Abaya stressed “But the probability of derailment in MRT, I think, is minimal because we have a working signaling system, which is able to detect rail breakages. Also, we are running at a very slow speed.”
After the August 3 incident, DOTC ordered the speed limit of MRT 3 trains to be at 40 kilometers per hour instead of 60.
In the “draft” report, as referred to by Abaya, the MTR team said that the MRT 3 rails are “in a poor and unacceptable condition to allow continuous safe operation of the railway up to its designed standard.” They also cautioned against “a broken rail is a serious threat to the safe operation of a railway. It can potentially cause train derailment resulting in substantial casualties in a high usage system like MRT 3.”
Abaya countered by saying that they are already addressing the issues pointed out.
“We’re not just sitting down on the issue of rails, we are addressing it,” stressed Abaya. “We have procured rails, and in fact we are doing more than what MTR is suggesting by replacing 6 kilometers of rails instead of the 1.2 kilometers they suggested.”
The Transportation Department already set aside P81.5 million to buy 608 pieces of new 12-meter steel rails for the MRT 3. They also borrowed spare rails from LRT 2 because of lack of stocks.
The government is also looking for a new maintenance contractor for the train system after DOTC allotted an increased budget of P2.4 billion from P2.2 billion. The new contractor will be in-charge of the replacement of the old rails.