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5: Management planning

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There is a lot more to building a new commuter service than just ordering new train equipment. A site for a service depot had to be decided and made ready. Train schedules and working timetables needed to be created, merged with all the other train movements on the line. Planning of crew operations, cycling and time keeping would involve the Personnel Department and relations with the Brotherhoods. Locations had to be visited where stations could be built, and the potential sites examined at the various levels of Government, to determine which ones fitted best the foreseen public service. The operation of the stations had to planned, relating to manning, design of tickets and ticket sales, revenue control, and accumulation of traffic statistics, for information to the government planners. All of these factors would have to be designed and constructed, while avoiding conflict with existing traffic moving on the same lines, and the same thing for the final service, when it went into operation.

The commuter group

To do this work, I looked for personnel who already had a good experience and understanding of railway operations and management, but also who had enough flexibility, to be able to envisage and implement new concepts in passenger handling. I already had two supporters, Bob Withrow on the equipment side, and Jack George for accounting. For train operations and traffic control, we needed someone with experience in line operations, dispatching techniques, operating rules, and crew dispatching. There were several good candidates in this line, and we chose the best. He was George Dollis, at that moment working as Chief Train Dispatcher at Capreol. For station layouts and track designs, I looked to the railway's Engineering Department, who assigned Harry Kier to the Commuter Group. Finally, we needed office space, and an Office Manager to do our internal organisation, furniture, supplies, telephones, and typing support when needed. For this, we were lucky to have assigned to us Miss Jessie Smith, who had been managing the Regional Typing Pool. With a temporary typist added, we were a total of seven people creating a new image of rail commuter services for Toronto.

The rest of this book is devoted to telling the story of how we went about getting it done, and all the actions and vicissitudes that went along with it. Those are the subjects of the next chapters.

By this time we were already feeling the pressure. The Premier had said: "By the end of next year", that would be December 1966, and here we were already into Fall 1965! We were a nucleus of six officers of the railway, defining the new operation with support from the personnel of CN's other departments. The seventh person was there to do the typing for us, but this was not a steady position, because the typists came and went several times, so it is not so easy to identify who did what in that function.

We had help and participation from all the other departments in CN that applied their specialties to the work. While these were internal to the railway organisation, all aspects were to be developed with the client, that is, with the representatives of the Government of Ontario, since the resulting operation was what was being contracted for. Some new thinking was required in determining the legal relationship between CN and the Government. It was without precedent in those days, to have the railway contract to operate a passenger service in the name of a client outside the railway. There would be complications concerning legal liabilities, public image, ownership of the various fixed facilities, accumulating the accounts within the railway and sending the bills to the client to receive payment.

This was something the involved managerial relations and policy between the railway and the client, and needed to be conducted at the level of Senior Management, so it fell upon the shoulders of the Area Manager to take the lead in that. Jack Spicer, the Manager who had worked with MTARTS during the study phases, had been promoted to Edmonton, Alberta, and was no longer involved. The new Area Manager was Ray Williams, so he surely went through a quick learning phase to know what it was all about.

In the early months, after the announcement that CN would operate a commuter service, the Government had ordered the train equipment. There was not a lot more they could do until we had created the commuter group and could begin to define the operation more specifically. The recommendations to Government to act had been made by the study group MTARTS, and they had overseen the placing of the orders by the Department of Highways, while CN's Chief of Motive Power and Car Equipment, Les McGregor, had assigned staff from Headquarters in Montreal to oversee the technicalities with the manufacturers. So it was in early Summer that I started reporting to the MTARTS committee how the commuter group was progressing, and it was clear that action would soon be needed on the government side.

Management by government

There was recognition that a project of this size should not be administered by a committee, so some re-organisation was in order. This was an action for Cam McNab, Deputy Minister of Highways, so he arranged for the whole responsibility to be taken over by the Department of Highways. He needed to find somebody with knowledge of railway operations, and he already had Bill Howard on his staff, as Chief of Administration for the Department. Bill was from a railway family, and had worked for CN as train crew in the years 1946-1950. So by late 1965, he had become familiar also with office practices in government. Now they were contracting with CN for train operations that would be in their name, so Cam called him in one day and told him: "You're it!"

Bill was no stranger to railway operations. He often said, "Really, I was born into the railway!" then he would go on to explain that his parents worked for the Canadian Northern Railway, at a place then called "Grant". When CN was formed, a new rail connection was built from Long Lac to a new junction on the Canadian Northern at Nakina. All the old Canadian Northern staff and equipment was moved from Grant to Nakina, but there was no housing for all those people, so they were housed in box cars. So Bill first saw the light of day when he was born in a boxcar!  You could not get much closer to the railway than that!

Cam had been a driving force in getting MTARTS set up, and was a member of the Steering Committee throughout the study process. Most of the paper work of the committee had passed through Bill's hands, so he was aware of the current status, and he contacted me right away to tell me that what responsibility he had been given. There was an agreement to be negotiated between CN and the Government. Not only would CN be operating a commuter service in their name and projecting their image, but there was work to be done on the ground. Outside the limits of railway property, station houses were to be built, parking lots and access roadways, sewage, drainage and lighting, snow clearance and general housekeeping to be managed. As we traveled along the line to fix the locations for the stations, Bill traveled with us, then he could see what work would be required outside the railway right of way, for roadway access and lands for parking.

To get this work done, responsibility was transferred from the MTARTS group, who had done the study within the Department of Transportation, to the Department of Highways. This brought it directly under the direction of Cam McNab, and Bill Howard, to take over for the government side.

When I met with Bill, he spoke about his involvement in the political field. He was always impressed with the support coming to the Department from the political side. Before being assigned to the commuter project, he had been handling the preparation of estimates and in presenting them before the legislature. All parties in the legislature gave their full cooperation. It could have been because they wanted to see things above ground. They couldn't get excited about putting their names to things like a sewer, or anything that would not be visible to the public. Every politician could be happy to be associated particularly with trains. Both before and after inauguration, when Cam took Bill before the legislature with their estimates to ask for appropriations, it was always a case of "You are doing great, but you are not doing enough!" "Why are you not doing more?" "Should be more, should be bigger, should be going here, should be going there!" They all wanted trains, to Barrie, to Niagara Falls, everywhere. It was a visible thing they could associate with.

At first, he moved into the offices of MTARTS, working with Roy Cowley, the Chairman, and Phil Wade, the Project Director, but he was responding directly only to the Minister of Highways, Charlie McNaughton, and the Deputy Minister, Cam McNab. As we had done in the commuter group, he also started with only a bare-bones organisation of only five people, and he recruited a sixth person as time grew closer to operations. Three of his staff were transferred directly from MTARTS, Roy McEwen, Joe Desjardins and the secretary. Roy had worked on the analysis of population statistics, preparing the forecasts for probable traffic demand on the planned commuter service, and Bill continued to have him advancing this work. Joe's work had been in respect of access to stations, by automobile, by public transit, and on foot, so the new organisation had the benefit of his experiences.

Bill had official support from the other departments of Government, and needed only to bring in two new members of his staff to do the fieldwork. The first was Gerry Griffin, from the Engineering Department of Canadian Pacific Railways. His assignment was to layout the arrangements for roadway access and parking areas, at the station sites that we had, by now, fixed by agreement with both parties. Gerry called upon the support of all necessary departments in the Department of Highways, and the other parts of Government, as he needed them. While Ed Ingraham was in charge of Public Relations, he had recognised what lands they would have to buy or lease, so it fell to Gerry to work with the legal departments to organise taking them over.

At a later stage, Jack Clark joined the staff, to look after the station buildings and staff facilities.

Negotiating the agreement

There was early recognition of the need to finalise an agreement, but there were many details of operations and plant still to be decided, that made the negotiations be an evolutionary process. Ray Williams took along with him members of CN's legal Department, and Bill Howard had legal support on his side. I was brought in from time to time, to resolve questions of operating procedures and accounting. It was a long and difficult process that was not fully completed until the service had been in operation for a couple of years.

When I met with Bill Howard, he recalled the long hours in these meetings. "I was responsible, with legal help, to sit down and spend many days, weeks and months to come up with an agreement. CN was to operate a commuter service that they were already building, but there was no legal agreement for them to run it. We hammered out most of the details, then the lawyers got into the problems of legal liability. It took us longer to cover that subject than it took us to cover the operating aspects. The liability clauses were more than half the agreement."

In summary, the early planning for the new service was in the hands of just a small group of people, dependent upon all the Departments of the parent companies for the skills and support they needed.

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