MANILA -- The Department of Transportation (DOTr) has created a transition team that will handle the maintenance operations of the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT-3) after it terminated the maintenance contract with Busan Universal Rail Inc. (BURI).

The DOTr said the transition team consisting of the DOTr-MRT 3, Philippine National Railways (PNR) and the Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA) will temporarily take over the maintenance works of MRT-3 while the procurement of a new maintenance provider is being processed.

“The PNR and LRTA have committed to provide adequate technical support and expertise to ensure the smooth transition of the MRT maintenance operations,” the DOTr said in a statement Monday.

The technical personnel from BURI which are vital in maintenance works will likewise be absorbed by the MRT-3 to avoid service disruptions.

The DOTr, in an order signed by Secretary Arthur Tugade dated November 3, cited BURI's failure to address various issues such as poor performance, failure to ensure availability of required number of trains, failure to implement a feasible procurement plan for spare parts and noncompliance with the requirements of a complete and up-to-date Computerized Management System.

“The safety and welfare of the riding public is a priority of the DOTr,” Reiner Paul Yebra, Undersecretary for Legal Affairs and Procurement, said in a press briefing.

Some of the companies that expressed interest to bid for the new MRT maintenance provider are Sumitomo Corporation, French public transport operator RATP Group and Singapore’s SMRT Corporation, according to DOTr Undersecretary for Railways Cesar Chavez.

For its part, BURI wanted the DOTr to undergo arbitration proceedings to settle the issue on the MRT maintenance contract.

This comes as the firm asked the Quezon City Regional Trial Court (QC RTC) to resolve its petition for a protection order that will stop the termination process, compel the DOTr to submit to arbitration and settle their unpaid maintenance fees.

“The maintenance contract requires for an arbitration process,” BURI legal counsel Maricris Pahate said.

BURI reiterated that the glitches currently being experienced by the MRT system are due to the design flaws and not maintenance issues.

“Why are the glitches of the MRT being blamed on us? We have sent letters to the DOTr stating that unless the rails are fixed, the MRT will always experience train derailments and other breakdowns,” Pahate said.

“There is no basis for the termination. Why are they not addressing our concern that the rails should be replaced?” she added.

In its statement, BURI said that since it assumed maintenance operations in January 2016, it wrote the MRT-3 regarding the defective tracks that cause severe vibration affecting the rolling stock, signaling power and related system, and its track systems.

The letter stated the likely effect is detachment of component parts in the train underbody and interrelated systems.

BURI said it has consistently delivered the required number of train availability under the contract from averages of 18.75 to highs of 20.35 and 20.48 for November and December 2016 which are above the minimum of 18 trains required for peak hours.

The firm said its operational fleet availability for MRT-3 is 91.67 percent (66 out of 72 cars) which is higher than LRT 1’s 74.82 percent (102 of 139 cars) and LRT 2’s 66.67 percent (48 of 72 cars).

“The reputation of our company was damaged and we need to be vindicated,” Pahate said. (PNA)