Via Rail names new president after John Baird calls for change

Transport Minister Lisa Raitt appointed a new head of Via Rail on Sunday after fellow Conservative MP John Baird called for a change in leadership due to the alleged mishandling of issues at south Ottawa rail crossings.

Yves Desjardins-Siciliano of Montreal gets 5-year term, replacing interim head Steve Del Bosco

Via Rail has new leadership after Transport Minister Lisa Raitt appointed Yves Desjardins-Siciliano as the company’s new president and CEO on Sunday.

The Montreal native, who was the rail company’s chief corporate and legal officer and corporate secretary for the last four years, takes the job on a five-year term.

Later on Sunday morning, the daughter of Desjardins-Siciliano congratulated him on the appointment via Twitter.

Desjardins-Siciliano replaces Steve Del Bosco, who filled the job on an interim basis.

Del Bosco came under fire for Via Rail’s handling of rail crossing issues at several south Ottawa level crossings where signal failures frustrated residents.

Transport Minister Lisa Raitt appointed Yves Desjardins-Siciliano as the new head of Via Rail, on a five-year term, on Mother's Day, May 11, 2014. (Via Rail handout photo)

Ottawa West-Nepean MP John Baird called for new leadership at the beginning of May. Baird, who’s also the Foreign Affairs minister and is responsible for the Ottawa-Gatineau region, said he wasn't satisfied with the malfunctions and the way the company communicated with the city and public.

For months, warning signals at several crossings in Barrhaven have repeatedly malfunctioned. The crossings are close to where six people were killed when an Ottawa city bus collided with a Via passenger train in September last year.

The signal problems and the site of the fatal bus-train collision are located in the federal riding next to Baird's current seat. But Baird has made it known he wants to run in the next election in the new riding of Nepean, which encompasses the Barrhaven area.

Timely appointment

The appointment of a new president comes two days after Raitt issued an emergency directive for Via rail's safety and security at south Ottawa crossings.

For the next six months, Via trains must slow down when they approach crossings and Via employees must ensure the safety of pedestrians, buses and drivers while the trains pass.

Via fears trains in the Ottawa-Toronto corridor will be delayed between 10 and 20 minutes due to the changes.

Also this coming Thursday, rail experts will present findings on issues at the south Ottawa railway crossings during an Ottawa city council meeting.

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