Bus ride to Thompson became ‘nightmare in an icebox,’ passenger says

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A bus ride to Thompson from Winnipeg was a “nightmare in an icebox” that alarmed the new owners of a fledgling transportation company so much they appealed to the RCMP to rescue their passengers en route.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 28/01/2019 (1407 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A bus ride to Thompson from Winnipeg was a “nightmare in an icebox” that alarmed the new owners of a fledgling transportation company so much they appealed to the RCMP to rescue their passengers en route.

The 10 passengers on the Thompson Bus vehicle arrived in Wabowden (about an hour south of the northern Manitoba city) Saturday after a night on the road — in a bus with nearly no heat and temperatures outside hovering in the -40 C range, plus a windchill that made it feel like -50 C.

While no injuries were reported, the trip could have had a disastrous outcome, one passenger warned.

SUPPLIED Warren Pagee and his son Chais Pagee, 6, pose wearing the same clothes they had on during the frigid bus ride from Grand Rapids to Waboden overnight Friday.

Warren Pagee gave a personal account Monday, saying the problems started when passengers transferred from a “nice warm” bus they’d boarded in Winnipeg to one with little or no heat at about half way through the journey.

Pagee, who takes the bus regularly to Winnipeg for medical care, said typically there is a stop about half way along the 760-kilometre trip in Grand Rapids, and passengers board a bus from Thompson making a return trip to the northern city.

“It was a nightmare,” Pagee said. “The bus was an icebox… The passenger door wouldn’t close all the way. The windows were drafty and the bus driver told us he only had enough heat to keep the windshield (clear).”

Thompson Bus is one of two local carriers, along with Maple Bus Lines, that has filled the vacuum left by Greyhound Canada when it pulled service on the Prairies last fall.

On Saturday night, however, Thompson Bus owners said they had problems with the vehicle designated for the Thompson leg of the route. A bus initially scheduled to make the trip broke down on the road (and was still there the next morning, according to social media posts). The second bus dispatched had heating issues.

“It was ludicrous sending a bus with no heat. We should have just kept going in that nice warm bus (passengers boarded in Winnipeg),” Pagee said.

He said the next morning, after everyone had warmed up in the community 110 kilometres southwest of Thompson, he and his son refused to board the thawed out but still cold bus when it left Wabowden.

Pagee instead was picked up by Thompson Bus co-owner Siddhartha Varma.

Varma said Monday the company contacted the Wabowden RCMP in the early-morning hours for help “to have a warm place for the passengers to go,” after hearing accounts of a harrowing overnight journey.

Varma then referred the Free Press to the bus line’s new partner, Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation, for further inquiries.

In an ironic twist, NCN and Thompson Bus had celebrated their partnership Friday afternoon, hours before the derided bus trip got underway.

NCN Chief Marcel Moody said, at the very least, the bus should have had portable heaters aboard and blankets for emergencies.

“I can only apologize to all the people caught up in the whole fiasco,” Moody said in a phone call Monday.

He said Thompson Bus had informed him passengers had been offered a free one-way trip on the fledgling line, plus a $40 cash voucher, as compensation. However, he said he’s still looking into accounts of the incident.

“There is absolutely no need for people to be treated like that… Something got sacrificed. The safety of people, that’s fundamental,” Moody said.

“Our ultimate goal is better customer service for northern Manitoba. We’re not there to provide s— service and go out of business. We’re there to provide good service.”

alexandra.paul@freepress.mb.ca

History

Updated on Monday, January 28, 2019 8:03 PM CST: Updates headline

Updated on Tuesday, January 29, 2019 10:39 AM CST: clarifies temp with windchill factor

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