Philippine Daily Inquirer

MRT DERAILMENT ‘HUSHED UP,’ SOLON SAYS; TRANSPORT EXEC CITES PROBE

- By DJ Yap and Jovic Yee @deejayapIN­Q

A congressma­n on Saturday said a disaster nearly occurred on Tuesday when a Metro Rail Transit (MRT) train derailed after offloading passengers at the North Avenue station in Quezon City but the incident was “hushed up” by the management.

Puwersa ng Bayaning Atleta Rep. Jericho Nograles said the train’s gearbox “broke and snapped causing a derailment” around 8 p.m. while it was empty of passengers and moving slowly.

In a statement, he said the incident was not reported to the public to “cover up the negligence and inefficien­cy of the maintenanc­e provider, Busan Universal Rail Inc. (Buri).”

Nograles said this was technicall­y the first case of derailment in the MRT’s service history, and a sign that its system was now in a state of serious disrepair.

He explained that Tuesday’s incident was different from what happened in August 2014 when a train overshot its tracks at Taft Avenue station due to an apparent brake failure, leaving 38 passengers injured.

Reached for comment, the MRT management, through an official of the Department of Transporta­tion (DOTr), denied Nograles’ accusation of a coverup.

Explanatio­n sought

Undersecre­tary for Rails Cesar Chavez said he asked Buri on Wednesday to explain within seven days why its maintenanc­e contract with the MRT should not be terminated following the incident, stressing that the DOTr would “never allow [a] coverup.”

Based on a report by MRT-3 director for operations Deo Manalo and the train system’s independen­t consultant Seoul Metro JV, “the derailing of one bogey/train was due to a mechanical problem as a logical consequenc­e of poor maintenanc­e by Busan,” Chavez said.

While Nograles was correct to trace the problem to the gearbox, it did not break but its support came loose and “caused the single bogey derailment,” the official said. Why it happened would be part of the maintenanc­e provider’s explanatio­n

“Yes, the incident is serious,” Chavez said. “Though the train involved was not carrying a passenger and the incident happened at the turn-back area, it is a major concern for the DOTr that we can’t afford to sleep on our job.”

4-day check

The incident happened less than a week after the elevated railway line on Edsa underwent its annual four-day maintenanc­e check.

Nograles stressed that “what happened last Tuesday is more serious than what happened in 2014 when an MRT train overshot its tracks because the train was literally removed from its tracks! A lot of deadly scenarios could happen if the train was running on normal speed and was filled with passengers.”

As a result of Tuesday’s derailment, MRT operations were suspended in what the management described as a glitch.

“It turns out that this was more than a glitch because one of its trains (Index 04) was actually derailed due to a serious systems malfunctio­n,” the lawmaker added.

It took the MRT about four hours to put the train wheels back on the track, Nograles said.

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