MRT3 ridership falls 20% as service interruptions, passenger unloadings worsen under Tugade
The Commission on Audit warned that the Duterte administration would be forced to spend billions to subsidize EDSA Mass Rail Transit 3 (MRT3) if Transportation Secretary Art Tugade fails to stop the decline in ridership and improve the operations of the country’s busiest train line.
In the 2017 annual audit report of the Department of Transportation, COA reported that MRT3 ridership has plunged by 20 percent to 140.152 million passengers in 2017 from 176.058 million in 2013.
Upon his appointment in July 2016, Tugade boasted he would increase MRT3’s capacity to 20 trains ( 60 cars) from 16 trains ( 48 cars) in his first 100 days and increase its speed to 50 kilometers per hour (kph) from 40 kph. He has refused to step down despite failing to fulfill hs promises after two years in office and have instead blamed the previous administration for MRT3’s current woes.
COA blamed the DOTR’s failure to deploy the 48 light rail vehicles from Dalian Co. which were delivered as early as January 2017 because these were not equipped with signaling systems hooked to control center, and glitches in power supply and incompatible signaling system. DOTr was also unable to expand the train configuration from a 3-car to 4-car train.
COA said these issues caused 345 days of delay of the Dalian trains (as of December 2017) which has already cost P1.3 billion in damages or a third of the P3.8 billion cost of the LRVs.
COA claimed that the riding public has been stressed out by Tugade’s poor management of MRT3 which has become more prone to breakdowns and passenger offloadings
Although ticket sales have increased by P619 million or 29 percent in 2017 despite the drop in passengers COA attributed this to the 50 percent to 100 percent hike in fares three years ago.
In the last five years, COA said train removals peaked in 2016 with 2,619; service interruptions were at their highest in 2017 at 81; and passenger unloadings were at their worst in 2016 at 586.
These bad performance “not only deny the riding public of an efficient, effective and secured transportation system but undoubtedly impact on revenue collections, depriving the government of additional financial resources for payment of the MRT3 equity rentals,” said COA.
By next month, MRT3 will have used up 21 years out of its controversial 25-year build, lease and transfer agreement with Metro Rail Transit Corp.
“Considering that the revenues derived from passenger fares are used to finance the payment of equity rental fees and staffing and administration costs…it is vital that the present MRT3 operations improve. Otherwise, a continued decline in passenger ridership and revenue collections would impact on the capacity of DOTr-MRT3 to self-finance the payment of its obligations to MRTC and demand greater government subsidy,” COA said.
Government subsidy to MRT3 has jumped by 14 percent to P4.286 billion in 2017 from P3.751 billion in 2013.