Minister Roban On Buses, Maintenance & Plans

September 29, 2017 | 14 Comments

In addition to the four new buses already ordered, the Office of Project Management and Procurement is currently reviewing a RFP which seeks tenders for up to eight new buses, Minister of Transportation Walter Roban said.

There have been a large number of buses out of service in recent months, with routes frequently being cancelled, and Minister Roban provided an overview on the situation in the House of Assembly today [Sept 29]..

Minister Roban said the “reasons for the buses being out of service are numerous and varied. Some of the issues relate to design. Some of them are as a result of the bus fleet simply being old.”

“With respect to age, the bus fleet has an average age of 11 years, when the industry norm is 7 years. In fact, we have some buses that are 20 years old.”

Minister Roban said that in addition to the four new buses already ordered and due on island at the end of the year, the Office of Project Management and Procurement is currently reviewing a RFP which seeks tenders for up to eight new buses.

“With the new buses on order, DPT mechanics have used their knowledge to eliminate, as much as possible, design flaws that plague the existing fleet,” the Minister said.

“For example, the engine compartment on the buses, as received from the manufacturer, is enclosed. However, in Bermuda’s summer temperatures, this results in overheating of the vehicle, which puts it out of service. The new buses will have vented engine compartments to ensure sufficient air circulation around the engine.

“The proximity and proliferation of Bermuda’s roadside vegetation is another issue. DPT has worked with the current bus manufacturer, MAN, to find a solution that addresses the infiltration of vegetation into the radiator, which is the main part of a bus’s cooling system.

“Also, buses with fabric seats are susceptible to spillage of drinks or to rainwater when windows are left open. Something as simple as wet seats can put a bus out of service. The new buses will not have fabric seats. This is possibly less comfortable but it will be easier to keep the buses clean and dry.

“On the matter of cleanliness, I should point out that all buses have signage indicating “No food. No drink.” This is to avoid food scraps being left behind as a bug infestation can put the bus out of service. This is an issue of human behavior, and we can all help to make a difference by changing our individual behaviors on the bus.”

Speaking on what is being done now to reduce the level of buses out of service, Minister Roban said as far as engines overheating, vents are being retrofit on the existing buses in the fleet and new radiators are being installed as well.

“To address the high temperatures in the interior of the buses, an appropriately qualified bus operator was transferred to the maintenance division to assist with and hasten air conditioning repair,” the Minister said.

“Also, DPT is working to ensure all buses have working fans and sun visors in the operator’s compartment, in addition to seeking quotes to tint the driver’s side window. These measures will reduce the likelihood of a bus being taken out of service due to temperatures that are too high. Remember: it is not necessarily ‘engine problems’ that cause a bus to be taken out of service.

“Also, the Government supports the filling of funded, vacant posts in the Department of Public Transportation. With the age of the fleet and the difficulty of maintaining sufficient numbers of buses on the road, additional mechanics are being hired. Once their training on the bus systems is complete, they will bring much needed extra manpower to the maintenance division.“

Minister Roban said this “provides some assurance that DPT is addressing the challenges encountered with the existing fleet of buses, to the best of its ability, plus taking steps to ensure the new buses do not start service in Bermuda with the current disadvantages.”

The Minister’s full statement follows below:

Mr Speaker, Honourable Members of the House I rise today to give a Statement on the situation regarding our public buses.

The Department of Public Transportation has had a high number of buses out of service in recent months. This has been a challenge for the Government since taking office on 18 July. We also recognize this has been challenging for commuters, school students and visitors to the island.

What has been going on with buses for some time now is not a secret. For this reason, the Government believes it is imperative to be open about the situation – what it is we are dealing with and the planned way forward.

The reasons for the buses being out of service are numerous and varied. Some of the issues relate to design. Some of them are as a result of the bus fleet simply being old.

With respect to age, the bus fleet has an average age of eleven [11] years, when the industry norm is seven [7] years. In fact, we have some buses that are twenty [20] years old. Although new buses were purchased in 2009 and 2014, this was insufficient to keep the average age of the fleet commensurate with best practice.

To remedy this, more needs to be done to augment a fleet that is on the road 18 hours a day, almost every day of the year. The newer buses are being utilised more often in the rotation, which, in turn, means they are aging faster. The remainder of the fleet is older and, with so many buses out of service, the Department of Public Transportation [DPT] is unable to carry out a programme of preventive maintenance, as it has done in the past.

However, I am pleased to report that, in addition to the four new buses already ordered and due on island at the end of the year, the Office of Project Management and Procurement is currently reviewing a Request for Proposal [RFP] prepared by the Department which seeks tenders for up to eight new buses. As stated in the Throne Speech, the Government will continue with this long overdue re-investment in the bus fleet.

Mr Speaker, with the new buses on order, DPT mechanics have used their knowledge to eliminate, as much as possible, design flaws that plague the existing fleet. For example, the engine compartment on the buses, as received from the manufacturer, is enclosed. However, in Bermuda’s summer temperatures, this results in overheating of the vehicle, which puts it out of service. The new buses will have vented engine compartments to ensure sufficient air circulation around the engine.

Overheating, generally, can result in the bus being put out of service when air conditioning fails. If the bus does not have windows that open, then it is difficult to provide relief for passengers and bus operators. The new buses will have windows that open.

The proximity and proliferation of Bermuda’s roadside vegetation is another issue. DPT has worked with the current bus manufacturer, MAN, to find a solution that addresses the infiltration of vegetation into the radiator, which is the main part of a bus’s cooling system. This involves fitting a pan under the radiator to stop debris from being sucked in and causing overheating.

Also, buses with fabric seats are susceptible to spillage of drinks or to rainwater when windows are left open. Something as simple as wet seats can put a bus out of service. The new buses will not have fabric seats. This is possibly less comfortable but it will be easier to keep the buses clean and dry.

On the matter of cleanliness, I should point out that all buses have signage indicating “No food. No drink.” This is to avoid food scraps being left behind as a bug infestation can put the bus out of service. This is an issue of human behavior, and we can all help to make a difference by changing our individual behaviors on the bus.

Mr Speaker, no doubt Honourable Members will want to know what is being done now to reduce the level of buses out of service.

I can report that, with respect to the engines overheating, vents are being retrofit on the existing buses in the fleet. In addition, new radiators are being installed as well.

To address the high temperatures in the interior of the buses, an appropriately qualified bus operator was transferred to the maintenance division to assist with and hasten air conditioning repair.

Also, DPT is working to ensure all buses have working fans and sun visors in the operator’s compartment, in addition to seeking quotes to tint the driver’s side window. These measures will reduce the likelihood of a bus being taken out of service due to temperatures that are too high. Remember: it is not necessarily ‘engine problems’ that cause a bus to be taken out of service.

Also, the Government supports the filling of funded, vacant posts in the Department of Public Transportation. With the age of the fleet and the difficulty of maintaining sufficient numbers of buses on the road, additional mechanics are being hired. Once their training on the bus systems is complete, they will bring much needed extra manpower to the maintenance division.

An important element of the maintenance process is the tracking, ordering and control of inventory. Fully functional online inventory tracking is not entirely available at present but the Government considers resolution of this matter to be a high priority. The Department will be working to achieve a more complete online inventory system.

All of this, Mr Speaker, provides some assurance that DPT is addressing the challenges encountered with the existing fleet of buses, to the best of its ability, plus taking steps to ensure the new buses do not start service in Bermuda with the current disadvantages.

For the travelling public, however, there remains the challenge of consistency with respect to the bus schedule. As announced previously, the Department of Public Transportation has hired minibuses to service the schools. However, until the level of buses out of service is consistently below forty [40], it will continue to be extremely difficult to fulfill the promise of the published schedule for the general public.

To assist in supplying the travelling public with timely and, to the extent possible, accurate information on buses and bus routes, DPT is working with the Department of Communications to improve the flow of cancellation information.

The existing process of notification is antiquated, cumbersome and fraught with difficulties. Not least, it is hampered by the sudden change in circumstances for each bus. Vehicles can be pulled out of service without any prior notice for any number of reasons. On many occasions, out of service buses have outstripped the number of in-service buses.

A re-vamped communications process will need to be more nimble and responsive to ever-changing circumstances, at least until such time as the bus fleet is stabilized.

Working together, the Departments of Communication and Public Transportation have already implemented a system of direct notification of bus cancellations to media outlets. We expect to see further improvements to the communications process shortly, and will continue to work towards additional enhancements where possible.

Mr Speaker, the difficult economic times encountered in recent years and decisions made on spending priorities have resulted in an overall lack of investment in material and human resources for the Department of Public Transportation.

Most unfortunately, this means that DPT is unable to provide the published and expected bus service despite the hard-working efforts of its staff. Notwithstanding, DPT has, and will continue, to put into place short-term remedies while, at the same time, working towards long-term effective solutions. As such, the Government would like to acknowledge and thank the public for its patience at this time.

Looking ahead, Mr Speaker, three additional actions are in progress or will be shortly.

First, DPT is seeking to fill existing vacancies within the Department, particularly in the maintenance division.

Second, the Department is proceeding with development of a new strategic plan. This will help with respect to bus transportation system structure, direction and issues.

The strategic plan will be valuable when looking at DPT’s role as work commences on the third action: the Ministry’s Green Paper on Transportation. The Green Paper will be a wide ranging review of Bermuda’s transportation needs, desires and options. There will be extensive opportunities for the community to participate, contribute and learn.

As recently as last week I attended a Town Hall meeting, with Public Transportation representatives, organized by the Ministry of Health and the Disability Advisory Council on “Transportation Services for Persons with Accessibility Challenges.” This clearly demonstrated the need for further dialogue, and highlighted the many viewpoints that ought to be integrated into the debate.

As work on the Green Paper progresses, I anticipate a lively and enlightening discussion, along with the development of innovative and workable solutions.

Thank you, Mr Speaker.

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Comments (14)

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  1. Cremated the Economy First Time - Second time lucky says:

    MINI BUS

    CONTRACT COSTS SO FAR?

    Ripped off, care of Roadban.

  2. Warrior says:

    Why haven’t seats that came unglued screwed into place. Metal strips on the rubber mats at the back of the buses coming up and not being repaired causing persons to trip. Four buses ordered and how many new drivers hired in 2017. I trust the new buses are better than those silly buses with the middle doors and front side seating. And where are the Pink mini-buses that somehow disappeared. These can be put to use on the St. David’s,Spanish Point and Pond Hill and maybe Ord Road runs from 10am until 3pm.

  3. Jus' Wonderin' says:

    “Also, buses with fabric seats are susceptible to spillage of drinks or to rainwater when windows are left open. Something as simple as wet seats can put a bus out of service. The new buses will not have fabric seats. This is possibly less comfortable but it will be easier to keep the buses clean and dry.”

    It’s called CLOSING the windows after each and every shift. Not that hard lmfao….

    • somuchless says:

      They can’t think that far lololol

      • mixitup says:

        Who said it was when the Bus was parked at the Garage? I’ve gotten onto busses where the previous passenger left a window open or cracked and the seats are soaked…So who really is thinking here?

  4. Stevie says:

    The silly buses were ordered by the previous PLP era. As regard to Robains message. Lies..yet again. Usual PLP nonsence.

  5. Real Deal says:

    Sometime soon we need to think about going electric.

  6. Ringmaster says:

    OK. Buses average age is 11 years, industry normal life is 7 years. Some are over 20 years. We’e in 2017. Seems clear the lack of investment was prior to 2012. Welcome back to the problem.

  7. Gustav says:

    Same buses run in the gulf States As well.
    Without Any Problems !
    But here its too Hot?
    Excuses for Lack of maintenance!

  8. Ringmaster says:

    While on the subject of buses, over 2 weeks ago the bus shelter opposite the Aquarium was struck and damaged. Part of the roof was also dislodged. It is now spay painted “Keep Out” with some cones and tape as well as warning. It looks a mess. As part of the visitor infrastructure it is a disgrace it has not been repaired as a matter of urgency. W & E, where are you?

    • somuchless says:

      Cause it ain’t a priority to the plp. It don’t make em any money. But it sad cause they continue to build a unnessary bus shelter near the foot ball field on palmetto road. I guess they are just waiting for somebody to get hurt like a school kid. PLP and w&E get ya act together

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