Passenger questions Maritime Bus safety standards

Maritime Bus has completed its first weekend in service, but at least one passenger is worried about the company's safety standards.

Minibus driver temporarily suspended from operating coach buses

On Nov. 30 Acadian Bus Lines parked its fleet of buses permanently, opening up the market for Maritime Bus. (CBC)

From the moment the 24-passenger minibus pulled into the Halifax station, Will Guthro said he thought it was going to be a bumpy ride.

Guthro rode an Acadian Lines bus on Friday, their last day in service, to visit his brother at Dalhousie University.

For his return trip to Kentville he booked with the newly-christened Maritime Bus.

"I'm standing outside the terminal waiting in the cold because the bus is running late arriving, and it turns out it's a minibus. I guess the word that would bring this image to mind for most people is airport shuttle," Guthro said.

He said the bus was poorly insulated, crowded and shook to the point where he had a headache.

"To put this in perspective, I've ridden in a full-sized Ford van along the very old pothole-riddled coastal highway in Ghana, West Africa.... and that was a more comfortable experience."

But Guthro said the scariest part of the trip was the driver, who used foul language on the ride.

"The driver was an interesting character to say the least. When he initially boarded the bus to collect our tickets the first thing he did was look around and, this wasn’t to himself or under his breath, he said to the group, ‘Holy expletive’ and then proceeded to collect our tickets," said Guthro.

He said the driver also told him he’s not allowed to drive the larger coach buses because he ran a red light during a company evaluation.

"So three hours into a two hour trip it’s not exactly reassuring to know your safety is in this man’s hands for the duration of this trip. That doesn’t exactly make you feel safe in a minibus," said Guthro.

"A lot of people are going to end up injured if that same sort of negligence occurs in a minibus."

'There are consequences'

Maritime Bus President Mike Cassidy confirmed the driver ran a light during his internal evaluation, but said he’s "very confident" in the driver.

"It was not that the driver was unsafe. It's not that the driver doesn't have enough points. It's not  that the driver has an abstract that would suggest he, in this particular case, would not be able to drive. It was our own internal evaluation," he said.

"If there’s an infraction within that evaluation it’s our policy that you get back into a motor coach and we have to be re-evaluated the following week."

"There are consequences," Cassidy said.

Maritime Bus said it was always their plan to run the smaller buses on the Kentville route.

Guthro said he called customer service and their CEO Adam Doiron offered him a free trip to Halifax.

But Guthro said he was mainly "unapologetic."

"I was blown away. That was a huge red flag for me. I didn’t understand why the suspension wouldn’t be unilateral," he said.  

Guthro said unless the company changes their safety standards he's unlikely to travel with them again.