17aug31 – A simple solution to MRT glitches

POSTSCRIPT / August 31, 2017 / Thursday

A simple solution to MRT glitches



IT HAS been over a year since President Duterte assumed office, riding on the campaign promise of fixing the MetroRail Transit (MRT-3), among other things. Yet to this day, reports of breakdowns and glitches are in the news almost every day.

What’s puzzling is that the solution looks simple: Return the system’s maintenance to the private owners, the MRT Corp., and hold them to their responsibility under the contract of maintaining an efficiently functioning train system.

It may be time President Duterte took a direct hand and seriously looked at the MRTC proposal on the table.

Completed in July 2000, the MRT-3 running in the middle of EDSA is operated by the Department of Transportation (formerly DoTC, now DoTr), but maintenance of the trains is a responsibility of the private sector (MRT Corp.) which it outsourced to Sumitomo Corp., the Japanese company that designed, built and maintained MRT-3 efficiently with hardly any glitch for 12 years.

In October 2012, under then DoTC Secretary Emilio Abaya, the government took over the maintenance by not renewing the contract of Sumitomo. In its place, the DoTC appointed PH Trams, a joint venture with dubious experience in maintaining light rail vehicles, without public bidding.

Who can forget the “runaway train” — the first major breakdown in August 2014? A train gone loose careened down the southbound tracks to the Taft Avenue terminal, jumped off the tracks, toppled a post, damaged three cars on EDSA and injured 32 train passengers, eight car riders and some pedestrians.

That occurred after MRT maintenance was transferred to PH Trams. Three years later — now under Busan Universal Railway Inc. (BURI) — the MRT remains as dangerous to ride as ever. The decadence has worsened, reportedly because there has been no purchase of spare parts since Sumitomo was replaced.

The MRTC has been reaching out to the DoTr proposing a solution, but it seems its officials are deaf to the idea – and blind to the fact that under the original Build-Lease-Transfer agreement between the MRTC and the government, the MRTC is the only proper contracting party to maintain the system.

In other words, it is the MRTC, the owner, that should choose and contract out the maintenance provider for the MRT-3.

The MRTC reportedly has offered the DoTr a $150-million solution. The proposal is on a “pass through basis,” meaning the MRTC will do this without profiting from it. The DoTr is being asked to revert to the arrangement in the BLT contract wherein the MRTC, as owner, will appoint and sign a contract with the maintenance provider.

Under MRTC’s fast-track rehabilitation proposal, the owners reportedly would begin with the purchase of spare parts worth at least $50 million. It would also hire at least 100 engineers for a full inspection of the entire system in 30 days, in preparation for its rehabilitation.

The MRTC says that if its proposal is accepted by the government, the system’s rehabilitation can be completed by the mid-term elections in 2019.

The proposal will see the return of the so-called Single Point of Responsibility. Today, when there is a breakdown or glitch, the DoTr and BURI point at each other. When Sumitomo was maintenance provider, it had the “single point of responsibility” and did not hold anyone else liable for technical failures.

Word is that the MRTC has informed President Duterte that it has spoken with Sumitomo to do the fast-track rehabilitation and maintenance of the system and that the MRT owners even invited the DoTr to join in the discussions with Sumitomo “to secure the best possible terms.”

• Transpo chief not licensed to drive

REACTING to a DZMM Teleradyo report on Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade renewing his driver’s license in just five minutes Tuesday, our Star colleague Boo Chanco remarked on Twitter “But he doesn’t drive. He told me himself. LTO didn’t give him a driving test?”

Re the driving test, I explained: “Pag license RENEWAL lang, wala ng driving test. Madali talaga ang renewal if there are no changes in the license-holder’s details.”

Boo replied: “But Dik, he told us he doesn’t know how to drive and cited the irony coz he is transport sec. I assume he has no license.”

As other tweeters joined in, I decided to ask Tugade directly to settle the question. In answer to my text, the secretary said that he has no driver’s license, never had one, and had never driven a motor vehicle. So, Boo was right!

Tugade’s text-replies to me: “1. No valid driver’s license 2. Never had one 3. Never drove a car. I have mentioned these openly in the past. At hindi ko po kinahihiya ito — lumaki po kaming mahirap at kapos.

“Me undertaking the process was for demonstration purposes only and not to get a license. I have never had a license in my lifetime. This was made clear to the staff when they made me do the form. In fact, I did not fill out portions re driving skills/data. After, I gave instructions to remove my details from files and records. I also destroyed the ‘license’ issued. Btw, in the accomplished form I also intentionally committed ‘errors’ so I could observe how errors are corrected.”

Tugade’s staff said that the rollout of the plastic licenses with five-year validity, initially at the Land Transportation Office in Quezon City, was also meant to test how fast the system can renew or issue a new license, from encoding of the driver’s data up to the printing of the license card.

The secretary got his “license” in five minutes despite the correction of his “errors.” He told LTO Chief Edgar Galvante to study how to minimize human (manual) intervention in the processing of applications to eliminate “fixing” and corruption.


(First published in The Philippine STAR of August 31, 2017)

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