Former Toronto transit CEO hired to conduct review of recent SkyTrain issues

Gary McNeil, the former CEO of Toronto’s GO Transit line, has been tasked by TransLink with conducting an independent review of two major service disruptions ...

Gary McNeil, the former CEO of Toronto’s GO Transit line, has been tasked by TransLink with conducting an independent review of two major service disruptions that shut down the Expo and Millennium SkyTrain lines earlier this month.

McNeil has been hired to evaluate what happened and TransLink’s response to the shutdowns. In addition, he will identify possible improvements for the system, including determining how to restore service more quickly in the event of another similar disruption.

“TransLink is hiring me directly but I’m independent in the sense that I don’t have any consultant connections,” McNeil told Business in Vancouver.

“Nothing is going to be hidden. They are going to be 100% supportive and they are not defining what kind of recommendations I’m going to come back with.”

McNeil said it hasn’t been determined at this point who at TransLink he will be working with, but that he will be reporting his findings directly to TransLink CEO Ian Jarvis

“I’m sure I’ll have a contact point there that will help me to open the doors and get into different places and I’ll have a number of meetings,” he said. “Ian will make sure that everyone helps me.”

He may also decide to bring in non-TransLink specialists, such as experts in IT systems, but this has not been determined yet.

Some of his work, he said, will be coming out and riding the system as a customer, and then going behind the scenes to look at how the control centre operates and how the maintenance program works.

He will meet with both senior and frontline staff to discuss issues with the current system and what changes can be made.

“Where do you get the best bang for your bucks if you are going to introduce improvements?” McNeil said, explaining that he will also look at training programs and the authority’s entire asset management plan.

About half of his time will be spent on looking at TransLink’s communications protocol.

“[I will look at] how you get information out to your frontline workers as well as to your customers who are on trains and at stations when you do have a delay, so that people know what’s impacting their system and how long they can expect the delay,” he said.

“Most people are very patient when they have this information.”

The review is set to begin July 29, with a final report due in October.

This will not be McNeil’s first involvement with Vancouver’s transit system. In addition to serving as CEO at GO Transit for more than a decade before retiring in 2013, he was involved in the planning, design, testing and construction of the SkyTrain between 1982 and 1986.

The train shutdowns, which both lasted longer than four hours each, took place on July 17 and 21. Some passengers trapped in trains pried the doors open and walked out on the tracks, and many others were stranded either in trains or at stations.

TransLink said it has already put improvements into place in response to the problems that occurred. Work on the public announcement system and staffing levels during disruption have been looked into, said the transportation authority.

McNeil said TransLink’s reputation, with customers and other stakeholders, has been hurt.

“Having two major incidents in one week has crumbled the credibility with the public as far as SkyTrain being able to provide a reliable service.

“Now it has to recover from that.”


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