'Can’t fix decades of underinvestment overnight': TTC's outgoing CEO
Outgoing Toronto Transit Commission CEO Andy Byford said his dealings with Bombardier during his tenure have been “frustrating,” and that the transit agency did everything it could to ensure the streetcars would be delivered on schedule.
“I think short of actually building the streetcars – short of making them – I cannot see what more we could have done,” Andy Byford told BNN in an interview. “We’re up to 51 in service now, but there should have been 150.”
“It’s been very frustrating.”
Byford said despite ongoing delays, the TTC is holding Bombardier to its targeted completion date – the end of 2019 – to deliver all of the promised vehicles, and that he has been conducting weekly meeting with the company to stay on top of the progress.
“We have micromanaged the supplier,” Byford said. “We get a weekly check-in now on where new vehicles are…I have a monthly meeting with the Bombardier CEO. So I think we’ve done everything short of actually making [the streetcars].”
Byford, who has been the chief executive of the TTC since 2012, announced last month he would be taking a new job as president and CEO of New York City Transit. He will remain in his current position at the TTC until Dec. 22.
While the decision to award Bombardier the $1.25-billion streetcar order pre-dates him, Byford said it was the right decision at the time – and that there’s no going back now.
“To change suppliers now, you’d be looking at introducing another probably two- to maybe three-year delay, to have another supplier gear up, design streetcars that can fit Toronto’s unique gauge,” he explained. “And that just means patient customers would have to wait another three years for air-conditioned, accessible street cars. I don’t want to do that.”
“The best thing we can do now is drive that project to completion.”
Byford noted the Montreal-based plane and train maker had the lowest bid for the contract, making it the obvious choice. But he said one of his learning points from the experience is “sometimes if you go with the lowest bid, you do end up having problems.”
“The saddest part is when the streetcars are delivered, they’re fabulous,” he added. “We just need more of them.”
When it comes to potential future dealings with Bombardier, Byford wouldn’t comment on possible contracts with the New York Transit agency, but said generally “you’re only good as your last delivery.”
And as for the TTC, he warned the agency would have to stay on top of the company in the future.
“My successor absolutely must keep their feet to the fire.”
-- With files from BNN's Paige Ellis