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Half of new buses are on the road

Two of four new buses expected to bolster the island’s ageing public transport fleet are on the roads.

A Government spokesman acknowledged the increase of bus cancellations in recent weeks.

Walter Roban, Minister of Transport and Regulatory Affairs, was asked about the status of the four new buses through the Department of Communications last week.

In a response this morning, a spokesman said: “Two buses are on island and in service. The Department of Public Transport is consulting with the plant to reconfirm delivery dates for the remaining two buses.”

The spokesman said the department was able to maintain a “reasonably satisfactory” number of buses in service over the winter, and there had been “relatively fewer” cancellations.

But he added: “Unfortunately, cancellations have become more frequent in recent times, as the fleet continues to age.

“Wear and tear can generally account for the reduction in ‘in service’ buses.”

The spokesman said the DPT is in the “early stages” of a plan to overhaul the 2009 series of buses with new transmissions, differentials and engines in an effort to reduce future cancellations.

He said: “These parts have been ordered and when shipping dates are confirmed, DPT will be prepping the buses and working with MAN to schedule technicians to be on island to carry out the work.

“As in the past, we will use the opportunity to have DPT technicians work alongside the MAN technicians so that there is an exchange of information and knowledge.”

Mr Roban announced that the first of four new buses had arrived on island on January 15.

He said at the time that three more were “expected within the next four months”.

The island has been hit by waves of bus cancellations since then.

Chris Furbert, president of the Bermuda Industrial Union, last week said that bus drivers were upset with the condition of the bus fleet and concerned about the management team’s attitude towards the collective bargaining agreement with unionised staff. Mr Furbert was speaking after a meeting called by the BIU disrupted bus service on Thursday.

Mr Roban said in January that “a substantial improvement in the status quo” for the bus service was expected in the “weeks and months ahead”.

He added the new buses were being built to a “new standard of specification” suited to Bermuda conditions.

Mr Roban said that the Government had also begun to “overhaul a number of the buses already on the island to breathe new life into them”.

Mr Roban pegged the cost of the four new vehicles at more than $1 million, not including shipping and duty, in March.

David Burt, the Premier, pledged $3 million to help improve the island’s battered bus fleet in the Budget Statement in February.

Mr Burt said the $3 million would be used to buy eight new buses. Bus cancellations have been upwards of 90 routes on some days in recent weeks, including school bus routes.