THE Metro Rail Transit (MRT) has had hundreds of accidents and glitches over the years, along with delays that gave rise to long lines of passengers waiting for rides, but what happened last week was something new and unexpected.
On Tuesday afternoon, a woman alighting from a train fell off the platform onto the tracks at the Ayala Station. Her arm got caught in the coupling linking two train cars and was severed. Fortunately, doctors at the nearby Makati Medical Center succeeded in reattaching her arm in an operation the next morning.
Two days later, on Thursday morning, the last two cars of a north-bound train got disconnected between the Ayala and Buendia stations. Some 100 passengers had to walk back to Ayala on the gravel alongside the tracks.
When Sen. Grace Poe, chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Public Services, held inquiries during the previous administration, she recommended the filing of graft charges against some Department of Transportation and Communication (DoTC) officials. But it was only recently, under the Duterte administration, that charges were actually filed by the Ombudsman against former Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya and ten other officials in connection with a R3.8-billion maintenance contract signed with the Busan Universal Rail, Inc.
After last week’s two MRT incidents, the senator called on the Department of Transportation (DoTr) to decide whether it may be time to suspend the operation of the MRT. DoTr Secretary Arthur Tugade said the department cannot stop the operation of MRT because of the 500,000 commuters who rely on it daily to get to work. The DoTr, however, said an investigation is underway. Meanwhile, the MRT technical team is doing everything to ensure the safety of MRT riders.
The investigation has just begun. It is now concentrated on finding out why the “Messma card” which records all human interventions in MRT coaches’ operations – much like the “blackbox” of airplanes – is missing from the coach that got detached. This could lead to a finding of sabotage. Or it could expose a management lapse. Or a maintenance problem.
We must leave the DoTr and MRT to carry out the investigation of the coach decoupling incident last Thursday. They should know, however, that all eyes are on them. They must spare no effort to ensure the safety of the thousands of commuters who need to continue using its services.