Deux-Montagnes train users are still upset after the head of exo, the regional transit authority responsible for overseeing trains in the Montreal area, issued an apology over suggestions she made last week.
Josée Bérubé said in a statement on Monday that she was “extremely saddened” to see her comments prompted such a “strong reaction” from commuters who are bracing for a partial train line shutdown.
“I am sincerely sorry for this, and know that I am wholeheartedly with you,” she said.
The president of the train authority came under fire last week for advice she doled out during an information session over what Deux-Montagnes residents can do when their daily trips become longer and more difficult in January.
Bérubé called on train users to do their part during the partial shutdown of the line. She suggested affected commuters ask their employers to make a space for their children at work and change their work schedule.
As part of her advice, she said Deux-Montagnes residents could hire help to prepare meals for their families and students could work later to extend the operating hours of daycares.
After riders called for her resignation, Bérubé said she was trying to rally them to stick together and get through the upcoming work that will extend their commutes.
“I just said something that was meant to be a call for help,” she said.
Francis Millaire, spokesperson for Mouvement/Rally Train Deux-Montagnes, a group of commuters who use the train line, told Global News that Bérubé’s suggestions are “totally inapplicable” and would require full-time workers to leave their jobs.
“None of these options are applicable in real-life situations,” he said. “Basically, what we’re hearing is that these measures are not suited for us. They are not suited to keeping our jobs and being there for our kids.”
The comments were also seen as tone-deaf by train users like Anne-Marie Verelli. While the West Island resident said she doesn’t believe Bérubé needs to step down, she said the key figure at exo needs a “reality check.”
The Deux-Montagnes train line will partially shut down starting Jan. 6, 2020 as part of work on Montreal’s light rail network, known as the REM.
While there will be mitigation measures in place, the work requires the closure of the Mount-Royal tunnel, which means trains will no longer bring commuters directly downtown.
As part of the plan, train users will also have to use buses or the Montreal Metro, which could mean at least an additional 45 minutes to their daily commute.
Millaire, for his part, said the recent incident shows that those in positions of authority don’t seem to understand the reality of train users in the area.
The province needs to implement a different plan before overhauling the train line, he said.
“We’re asking the government not to shut down the service until better mitigation measures are implemented and allow us to have control of our life,” he said.
— With files from the Canadian Press