Breakdowns, corruption and separations: The MRT in 2017

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 1) — From losing precious time because of unloading incidents to train cars separating while in transit.

Commuters on the troubled Metro Rail Transit 3 (MRT-3) had a rough 2017, with the rail line reporting 504 glitches over 255 operation days or an average of two glitches a day.

This is about the same as the daily average for 2016, when the MRT had 432 glitches over 225 operation days.

Among the incidents that made headlines was when two coaches detached during the morning rush hour commute on Nov. 16, 2017, forcing around 140 passengers to walk precariously on the rails for 10 minutes to reach safe ground.

Read: Passengers walk from Ayala to Buendia stations after MRT train detaches

Just 10 days prior, the government took over the maintenance of the MRT from Korean group Busan Universal Rail, Inc. (BURI) due to the company's alleged failure to operate the railway efficiently.

Read: DOTr: Gov't to take over MRT maintenance

That same month, transport authorities filed plunder charges against BURI officials and Cabinet officials of former President Benigno Aquino III for alleged anomalies in the ₱3.8-billion maintenance contract issued to BURI.

Read: Former Aquino Cabinet officials face plunder complaint over MRT-3 maintenance contract

Spare parts bought, auditor found

But the Department of Transportation (DOTr) said it is starting to address one of the biggest issues with the rail line: the lack of spare parts.

In a Sunday press statement, the DOTr said it has completed the procurement of the first batch of spare parts for the MRT's maintenance.

"Deliveries of some spare parts have commenced and will continue over the next 30-90 days," said DOTr Assistant Secretary for Rail TJ Batan. "We got the commitment of all suppliers to exert best efforts to deliver earlier than the prescribed contractual lead times and our MRT-3 team will focus on realizing this."

The agency said Linkers Enterprises bagged the ₱8.66-million contract for train parts, while Nikka Trading got the ₱7.33-million contract for spare parts for the MRT's tracks.

The DOTr added that it has named TUV Rheinland as the MRT's Independent Audit and Assessment (IAA) Consultant in a ₱45.31-milion deal.

The IAA will cover all sub-components of MRT-3, including its signaling system, tracks and rolling stock, which includes the current fleet of 73 Czech-made trains and 48 trains made by Chinese firm Dalian Locomotive Corp.

The IAA Consultant will then make specific and actionable recommendations to address identified issues.

The Dalian trains were part of a ₱3.8-billion contract signed in 2014 between the Chinese firm and the Transportation Department during the Aquino administration under then Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya.

Of the total contract price, ₱526 million was paid to Dalian.

However, a Senate committee probe found the trains were incompatible with the MRT-3, with only 29 equipped with a signaling system.

The committee also found that the trains weighed just over 49,000 kilos, some 2,700 more than the 46,300-kilo limit under the terms of the contract.

Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade told CNN Philippines in November 2017 that the government may return the Dalian trains to China if these cannot be made to work.

Read: Gov't considering replacing MRT train system