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COMMUNICATION ERROR IN DIAGNOSTIC PANEL

Train car detaches in latest of string of MRT 3 accidents

/ 07:12 AM November 17, 2017

DISABLED TRAIN Passengers of Metro Rail Transit 3 go hiking along the tracks after one of the train’s cars was detached on the northbound section between Ayala and Buendia stations in Makati City, disrupting their trip. One of them, Sinag de Jesus, shared this photo with the Inquirer.

Only at MRT 3: If it’s not a passenger’s arm, it’s a train car.

Another detachment hit Metro Rail Transit 3 (MRT 3) in Makati City two days after a female passenger’s arm was severed in a freak accident at the Ayala station.

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A train car got detached on the northbound section between Ayala and Buendia stations around 9 a.m. on Thursday, resulting in the off-loading of 130 to 140 passengers, according to Transportation Undersecretary Cesar Chavez.

Train service was limited from North Avenue to Shaw Boulevard for 30 minutes, while the detached car was being removed.

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The passengers were evacuated to Ayala station with the assistance of security personnel.

On Tuesday, the right arm of a 24-year-old software engineer was cut off when she fell into the gap between two train cars.

As she lay on the tracks, the train’s wheels ran over her arm just below the armpit. Doctors were able to reattach her arm.

‘Communication error’

At a press conference, train driver Reynaldo Año said the diagnostic panel displayed the “communication error” icon for the third car as he drove the train toward Buendia, where the tracks are higher than at Ayala.

Año said he slowed down and called up the MRT control central, which advised him to “reinitialize” the system at Buendia.

However, he said that when he reached Buendia, he saw from his side mirror that the train had only two cars. He said he drove the train back to the detached car.

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A Facebook post by Ivan Villegas, one of the passengers in the detached car, showed the car’s occupants looking calm as they watched the lead train leave them behind. A fluorescent light inside the disconnected car was on.

The train was on its third loop when the incident happened, according to MRT officials.

Stop operations?

Senators were frustrated over the continued glitches and accidents at MRT.

Sen. Grace Poe, chair of the Senate committee on public services, said it was fortunate no one was hurt in the latest mishap.

Asked whether the Department of Transportation (DOTr) should stop MRT 3 operations to ensure the trains were safe, Poe said: “Now if there is a need to stop [operations], we know this would affect almost 500,000 commuters. But if we are to think about those who might be killed because of negligence, probably we might have to reconsider.”

She said the DOTr should make an emergency release of funds or get foreign experts to make the trains safe.

Bring back Sumitomo

Sen. JV Ejercito said the DOTr should bring back Sumitomo or any other equally capable company to handle the maintenance of MRT, noting that the commuters’ nightmare began after the Japanese firm was replaced as MRT maintenance provider.

Ruel Jose, head of the technical assistance team and a track system specialist, said initial investigation showed no electrical or mechanical fault in the coupler of the detached car.

Jose said one possible way for the car to have gotten uncoupled was through human intervention.

The last incident of  uncoupling at MRT 3 was in 2011 at Kamuning station. Jose said the cause was an electrical malfunction.

 

Shorter schedule

Amid the accidents, MRT 3 has shortened its service by one hour to give more time for the preparation, maintenance and checking of its trains.

The MRT 3 general manager, Rodolfo Garcia, and the director for operations, Mike Capati, said the opening of the train service at Taft and North Avenue stations would be adjusted from 5 a.m. to 5:30 a.m.

The closing at both stations will now be set at 10:30 p.m. instead of 11 p.m.

Only 15 trains will be deployed at a time, instead of the maximum 17 to 18, according to MRT officials.

Asked about Poe’s proposal to shut down MRT 3 so that the trains could be thoroughly checked, Garcia replied, “That is possible, but, you know, when you look at the people waiting in line at our stations to get to their offices, you will really think about it.” —REPORTS FROM JEROME ANING AND CHRISTINE O. AVENDAÑO

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