War of words ramps up between STM officials and union over Montreal bus service

Click to play video 'STM bus service woes' STM bus service woes
WATCH: There’s a war or words going on between management of the Société de transports de Montréal and one of its unions. Tim Sargeant reports – Nov 21, 2019

The Société de transport de Montréal’s (STM) bus service is about to change, but whether for better or for worse depends on who you talk to.

Management officials plan to add 300 new hybrid buses to the network by the end of November, 2020.

The first 31 will be delivered before the end of this year.

READ MORE: Montreal will add 300 hybrid buses to STM in 2020

Senior staff say that will increase service by 15 per cent next year — a new record.

“Montrealers are eager for public transit and we’re proud to answer the call,” Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante said during the unveiling of the STM’s 2020 budget.

But union officials disagree.

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The mechanics union says 600 out of 1,800 buses are out of service due to maintenance and repairs.

With that many buses off the roads, they say, it’s impossible to guarantee on-time performance.

“It’s really bad for clients. they will be waiting at the bus stops,” Bruno-Pierre Gauthier, vice-president of the mechanic’s union, told Global News.

“That’s not good.”

READ MORE: STM creating new express bus line, adding trains to Metro’s orange line to alleviate congestion

Both sides agree it’s normal for some buses to undergo repairs, but Plante says the actual bus shortage is 140.

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“Of course we were dealing with a shortage, of some difficulties, but to me it is a necessary transition,” Plante said, referring to the move to hybrid buses.

Click to play video 'STM to receive 300 hybrid buses in 2020' STM to receive 300 hybrid buses in 2020
STM to receive 300 hybrid buses in 2020 – Jan 10, 2018

Those buses, as well as garage upgrades, are supposed to increase and improve passenger service.

But Gauthier has his reservations.

“For me, it’s unreal,” he said.

Gauthier argues there is so much pressure to deliver the new buses that many are coming off the assembly line and going straight into repairs.

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Furthermore, an additional 50 city buses will be needed in the West Island as of January to help serve train riders on the Deux-Montagnes line.

Commuter train service is being disrupted for the construction of the future electric train network known as the REM.

READ MORE: Additional mitigation measures announced to ease disruptions on Deux-Montagnes and Mascouche train lines

It’s unclear where those buses will come from.

Union officials say the STM will have to transfer some buses from existing routes, while STM officials say service to other riders on the network won’t be affected.