New Metrolinx chief defends his past record, commits to better 'day to day' experience
Phil Verster said he's excited to be working in one of the transit 'hotspots' of the world
The new chief executive of Metrolinx defended his past record at transit services in the United Kingdom on Tuesday, saying he's confident he can lead the provincial transit provider as it moves to vastly expand its footprint in coming years.
Phil Verster officially began in his role at the start of this month. He has a lengthy history in the transit industry, including stints as managing director of ScotRail in Scotland and at Britain's East West Rail.
Verster, 54, faced criticism during his two years at ScotRail as the service struggled to meet punctuality goals. In an interview with Metro Morning, he said that when he resigned that post in January, ScotRail trains were consistently running on time.
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"I understand that punctuality is important," he told host Matt Galloway. "We just have to have a focused program to make sure that our investments in infrastructure now are delivered on time and on budget."
Verster is stepping into the role as Metrolinx ramps up its effort to quadruple capacity on regional rail lines in the province from 1,500 weekly train trips to 6,000. The drastic increase is among many lofty goals the service has laid out in its 25-year outlook, which puts a heavy focus on integrating transit systems throughout its network.
"These are big ambitions that many cities in the world are struggling with," Verster said, adding that the Greater Toronto Area and surrounding regions have become "one of the hotspots for development in transit solutions" in the world.
Despite his optimism, Metrolinx has recently found itself mired in a controversy after the Toronto Star reported that proposals for two new GO Train stations may have been approved after pressure from the Ministry of Transportation. One of the stations is set to be built in the transportation minister's Vaughan riding.
Metrolinx had recommended against building both stations, and Ontario's auditor general has been asked to probe how the stations were approved given the revelations that have since surfaced.
Verster said Tuesday that Metrolinx will continue to provide unbiased information to policymakers, but it has no control over how that information used.
"Talking to our riders and passengers, they are less worried about the politics and they are much more worried about about their day to day journeys: having WIFI on trains, good service, good facilities and stations and I think we should keep on focusing on that."
- An earlier version of this story reported that Metrolinx is working to increase its train trips from 1,500 per day to 6,000. In fact, it is looking to increase its train trips from 1,500 weekly to 6,000.Oct 17, 2017 3:39 PM ET