City hall is postponing the purchase of new transit buses until it’s satisfied the manufacturer has solved troublesome problems with the engine emission control devices.

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City hall is postponing the purchase of new transit buses until it’s satisfied the manufacturer has solved troublesome problems with the engine emission control devices.

Coun. Janice Lukes, chairwoman of the public works committee, said the city was prepared to spend $15 million in 2016 for new transit buses from New Flyer Industries but that’s not going to happen.

Lukes (South Winnipeg-St. Norbert) said there likely won’t be new purchases until the city’s transit officials are satisfied with the reliability of the most recent emission control solution proposed by engine manufacturer Cummins.

"We’re still receiving buses from the 2014 (order)... and the 2015 (order) is being held to try and solve the problem before we purchase new buses."

City officials were forced to go public with their concerns with the transit fleet in September when it had to cancel several morning and afternoon rush-hour routes because Transit didn’t have enough buses on the road.

Transit buses were being repeatedly taken off the road for the same problem — troublesome emission control devices that need constant repair.

Winnipeg Transit bought 101 New Flyer buses between 2011 and 2013, but most of them are out of service on a daily basis, for up to a week at a time, because of the recurring emission control problems.

The problems on the New Flyer buses began shortly after they were purchased and became acute about two years ago.

The warranty on the buses has expired. While transit has been working with New Flyer and Cummins on a solution during that time, only recently did Cummins begin offering transit a discount on repair costs.

A New Flyer spokesman said no other municipality has delayed or halted transit bus purchases. Chris Stoddart, vice-president of engineering and customer service, said New Flyer continues to work with Winnipeg Transit and Cummins "to ensure the maintenance protocols are correct and followed precisely at the prescribed intervals."

Transit director Dave Wardrop said a solution to the problem appears to have been found but he told the public works committee Tuesday he wants a long period of review before concluding it’s a workable solution.

Lukes said Winnipeg officials are working with other municipal officials, adding a lawsuit against Cummins would be a last resort and only if the latest solution doesn’t work.

The number of transit buses out service has been dramatically reduced from the high of 109 at the start of September that prompted the fall schedule change.

Transit had 63 buses out of service Tuesday and of those, 19 were due to emission control problems — down from 75 buses when the problem was at its worst in September.

Wardrop said if the engine solution proves durable, a full transit schedule will go into effect on Dec. 20.

In mid-October, transit changed its tactics on dealing with the problem — instead of trying to repair the emission control components, it is purchasing new units from Cummins.

Cummins is providing Winnipeg with a $7,700 discount on the price of the replacement units, which normally cost $11,000 to $12,000.

Transit has an outstanding order for another 58 buses; 35 have are in service already and the remaining 23 will be introduced into service by early 2016.

While the city has put the purchase of new buses on hold, Wardrop told the committee he is exploring the availability of purchasing used, pre-2010 buses from other municipalities — vehicle models that do not have the same emission control issues.

Lukes said she is not confident the city would be better off buying used buses to bolster its fleet, adding the situation is putting pressure on Cummins to find a solution.

"Cummins recognizes that we’re not buying new buses because we have to solve this problem so there is a very ramped-up activity to try and solve the problem," Lukes said.

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca