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Former MTA head slams system, saying it's in 'terrible condition'

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amny Photo Credit: MTR Corp.

Former MTA chief Jay Walder apparently wasn't so thrilled with the transit system he ditched for a high-paying gig in China.

In his first interview with reporters as newly minted chief of Hong Kong-based transit agency MTR Corp., Walder bluntly called the condition of the MTA's infrastructure "terrible," before praising his new railway system.

"New York, when I arrived there, was in a financial crisis," Walder said, according to an audio recording of his remarks to reporters in China. "The system simply did not have enough money to operate. The assets were not being renewed and the infrastructure was in terrible condition."

"I think we have a very different situation here," Walder, 52, said. "We have a first-class railway, we have a sustainable financial model... I don't think this is the same situation as what you have in New York."

Despite the challenges he faced in New York, Walder said he was "able to right that financial basis and to be able to put the system back on firm financial footing," though the cash-strapped MTA is still scrounging to save money and already plans fare increases in 2013 and 2015.

An MTA spokesman said the agency had no comment on Walder's remarks.

Walder's statements were a bit stronger than his parting words when he left the MTA in October.

"I wish we could have done more to be able to improve services," the Queens native said back then, adding, "You have to play the hand your dealt."

"In a different world, in a different way, all of the attention, all of the energy would have gone into improving services," Walder said, "and that would've been great."

But it looks like fare hikes are also plaguing Walder in Hong Kong.

Walder told reporters a yet-to-be-determined fare increase would likely happen, though he wasn't sure how large it would be. He promised the final decision would be "open and transparent."

Walder began a 30-month contract with the MTR this week, for a salary of about $930,000 - far more than the $350,000 he was making at the MTA when he abruptly left before his contract ended.

But Walder said he's not going to skip out on his new position before his stint in Hong Kong is up, vowing, "I'm here to stay."


Follow reporter Marc Beja on Twitter: @marc_beja

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