'Human intervention' probed as possible cause of MRT3 train detachment

MANILA, Philippines – The management of the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT3) is looking into "human intervention" as the possible cause of the detachment  of one of its train coaches on Thursday morning, November 16.

Based on the management's initial investigation, the incident was not due to a electrical or mechanical problem, said Roel Jose, an MRT3 rolling stock specialist.

"During our investigation, wala kaming nakitang electrical fault o mechanical fault. 'Yung mechanical na para magkahiwalay 'yung gear, it pertains to human intervention," said Jose.

(During our investigation, we did not see any electrical fault or mechanical fault. For the gears to get detached, it pertains to human intervention.)

"Kami talaga, baffled kami. Human intervention talaga para maghiwalay (We're really baffled. It takes human intervention for it to get detached)," Jose added.

According to Jose, it is impossible for trains to get detached while running. "If a train detaches, the coach automatically stops," he said in a mix of English and Filipino.

MRT3 director for operations Mike Capati said they are not ruling out other possible causes yet.

"'Di namin puwedeng sabihin categorically [na human intervention ang cause]. Lahat ay tinitingnan namin para makasiguro kung ano ang talagang rason bakit humiwalay ito. We don't rule out anything but we don't want to preempt anything," he said.

(We can't categorically say that [it was caused by human intervention]. We are looking at all possible angles to make sure of the reason why it detached. We don't rule out anything but we don't want to preempt anything)

'Our trains are safe'

The MRT management assured commuters that their trains are safe.

"Napaka-safe ng ating mga sasakyan....Lahat ng nilalabas na tren ay safe at functional (Our trains are very safe....All of the trains that are deployed are safe and functional)," Capati said.

On Senator Grace Poe's call for temporarily halting MRT operations, Capati said this would only inconvenience their riders. 

"May action at proposal kami to address [the glitches]. Gustuhin man namin i-total shutdown ang MRT, malaking abala kasi 'yan (We have proposed actions to address the glitches. Even if we want a total shutdown of the MRT, it will cause great inconvenience)," he said.

To ensure that the trains are up and running, Capati announced that MRT3 will implement new operating hours starting Friday, November 17.

He said commuters will have to wait until 5:30 am before the MRT opens. Based on its official train schedule, the first train leaves North Avenue at 4:37 am. 

"All in all, there will be an hour additional time for the team to check the coaches," said Capati.

He also said that a maximum of 15 trains at any given time will be running to give way to train maintenance and that they will provide marshalls for every train to ensure passenger security.

"We're doing this so we have additional time to prepare the train. We can assure you that the trains we put on the revenue line are safe," he said.

Accident

On Thursday morning, commuters walked along the MRT3 tracks from Ayala station to Buendia station after a train coach detached from the main train around 9 am.

Train driver Reynaldo Año said that he saw a "communication error" on the last car. As he approached Buendia station, he found that the last coach was left near Ayala station.

"Pagdating ko sa Buendia, nakita ko sa mirror, two cars na lang ako. In-advise ako ng control na i-secure ang tren. Ang ginawa ko po, bumalik ako sa naiwang car. Salamat naman na 'yung mga pasahero doon, hindi sila nagpanic," he said.

(When we arrived Buendia, I saw on my mirror that I only have 2 cars. I was advised by the control [team] to secure the train. What I did was to go back to the car. Thankfully, the passengers did not panic.)

Commuter Gio Manlangit was among those left in the detached train coach. He said they waited around 10 to 15 minutes inside the train car before they were evacuated.

"Pinabuksan na 'yung (lever) for emergency para ma-open 'yung MRT. Tumalon kami sa medyo mataas na pinto tapos doon na kami mismo naglakad," he told Rappler.

(They asked us to pull the emergency lever to open the MRT. We hopped on to a fairly high door and then we walked.)

In 2011, a similar incident happened. MRT officials confirmed that it was caused by a grounded loose wire that caused the couple motor to move. MRT3 engineer Ric Inotorio said that in the case of the latest incident, "we can't say it was caused by electrical problems." – Rappler.com

Aika Rey

Aika Rey covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler. Before writing about politicians, she covered budget, labor, and transportation issues.

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