Hundreds of city buses across Quebec parked over safety concerns

Bus commuters across Quebec faced delays on Friday as roughly 600 buses were taken off the road due to concerns over a steering glitch.

Public transit commuters face delays and schedule changes in several Quebec cities

Commuters wait for the 105 bus in Montreal's Notre-Dame-de-Grâce neighbourhood. About 600 buses have been taken off the road for inspections across the province due to a possible issue with power steering. (Kate McKenna/CBC)

Bus commuters across Quebec faced delays on Friday as roughly 600 buses were taken off the road due to concerns over a steering glitch.

Nine public transit agencies pulled the buses made by Nova Bus. The Quebec manufacturer has asked the transit agencies to inspect the vehicles after finding the glitch in buses delivered between 2016 and 2019.

Bus service in Montreal, Quebec City, Longueuil, Outaouais, Laval, Trois-Rivières, Lévis, Saguenay and Sherbrooke was affected.

The problem is the possible corrosion of a connecting piece related to the power steering, said Marc-André Varin, general manager of the provincial urban transit association (ATUQ).

He said some transit authorities noticed a light warning of the situation, which prompted an investigation. There have been no reports of drivers losing the power steering, he said.

Varin explained it's hard to say how long it will take to inspect the buses — it could take a day or two to inspect them, and Nova estimates it would take between four and six hours to apply a short-term fix to each bus.

A spokesperson for the Toronto Transit Commission told Radio-Canada it will be upgrading steering components on its hybrid buses as a precaution.

The TTC hasn't experienced any issues with its fleet of Nova buses, but 116 of its buses are 2018 and 2019 hybrid models, said Stuart Green.

Nova Bus will have explaining to do, mayor says

Montreal's transit agency (STM) took 282 buses off the road, and advised commuters there would delays on some lines.

On Friday afternoon, the agency said more than 60 buses had been checked and were back in service.

Mayor Valérie Plante said the STM found out about the issue last night, and hasn't had to cancel any bus routes.

"Nova Bus is going to have to explain how it's possible that buses that are still pretty new have major problems like this," she told Radio-Canada's Gravel le matin.

She pointed out the 300 hybrid buses that will be added to the STM's fleet by next year are not the same model as the ones that have this steering problem.

STM spokesperson Isabelle Tremblay could not say exactly which routes are affected, nor could she provide an estimate of how long delays could be.

She said the STM was working with Nova Bus to remedy the situation, and asked customers to check STM's website for changes to their bus schedule, if any.

Frustrated commuters

Niganze Gildas was out waiting early Friday for the 105 bus at the corner of Sherbrooke Street and Mayfair Avenue in NDG.

A commuter who takes the bus every day, he said he waited about 10 extra minutes for the bus Friday morning, which would make him late for work.

Lukas Woronchak said he has a car, but lately has been trying to use public transit more often to get around.

"Now I'm very upset because I'm going to be late. I'm looking for the bus and there's no bus anywhere."

Angela Elliott also takes the 105 every day, and said she is used to delays on the line. But she acknowledged that a power steering issue is a different situation.

"I'd rather take one day of inconvenience than get into an accident."

Thursday night, Longueuil's transit agency (RTL) confirmed there would be an impact on the service offered to users Friday morning.

"We quickly made the decision to remove the targeted vehicles in order to ensure the safety of our users and our drivers," said the RTL's general manager, Michel Veilleux, in a statement.

"Repairs will be made as soon as possible. In the meantime we invite users to be patient over the next few days."

In Quebec City, the transit agency said it was temporarily removing 81 hybrid buses from the road, and indicated that there could be "several cancelled departures."

With files from Kate McKenna and La Presse Canadienne