Philippine Daily Inquirer, 10 October 2014

By Miguel R. Camus

MANILA, Philippines—A transport official downplayed the possibility of shutting down the operation of the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) because of the recently recurring problem of broken rails, saying there is still enough stock to replace problematic sections of the track.

MRT 3 general manager Renato San Jose confirmed that the elevated train system on Edsa was down to three backup stock rails but that it could still draw from the stockpile of the Light Rail Transit while waiting for new supplies to arrive in early 2015.

Earlier this week, San Jose said the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) would consider shutting down the MRT if the stocks run out and the safety of the trains is compromised, a scenario affecting half a million riders who rely daily on the MRT for cheap transport despite the overcrowding and frequent glitches.

But in an interview Thursday, the MRT executive said: “Right now, that [scenario] is remote. There are sufficient spare parts with the DOTC as a whole.”

The existing stockpile, he said, should provide MRT with enough cover until new supplies, or about 800 stock rails, arrive in the first half of 2015.

Most of the new rails are expected to be installed immediately upon arrival, according to Light Rail Transit Authority spokesperson Hernando Cabrera, who is also in charge of MRT’s “improvement projects.”

Damaged rails recently disrupted MRT operations twice in a span of six days, on Oct. 2 and 7.

The situation drew fresh criticism from MRT Holdings, the system’s private sector owner, which remains at odds with the government over a planned buyout scheme that would pave the way for the DOTC’s full take-over of the railway line.