For the first time since the strike began, hundreds of OC Transpo mechanics returned to work yesterday, reanimating the fleet and getting ready for a return to service next Monday.
After around 1,000 buses sat idle for almost eight frigid weeks, mechanics were triaging buses to determine a work order.
Many of the buses needed to be boosted just to start. Yesterday morning, nearly 100 buses sat idling around the yard of OC Transpo’s St. Laurent garage waiting to be inspected.
Most of the buses will need new batteries and need moisture removed from the air tanks for the brakes, said OC Transpo mechanic Duane Clifton.
If the inspection finds a bus doesn’t need any other work, Clifton said it could be out of the garage in less than two hours. They are then taken for a short test drive to ensure they are safe.
If they need repairs, they are put on a list to receive repairs. However, there is still a backlog of repairs that were abandoned when the strike started on Dec. 10, 2008. Clifton said those will need to be cleared before new repairs come in.
“The biggest thing is to get them out and running 100 per cent so they stay out on the road,” said Clifton.
“We don’t want them coming back in a week with minor defects. That won’t help us. Our goal is to get the first half out on the road and working properly.”
However, the buses are in surprisingly good shape, said mechanic Ray Laplante.
“It’s better than what I thought it would be,” he said. “A lot of them started this morning just with the boost.”
O-Train service will resume this morning, but limited bus service is not scheduled to resume until Feb. 9. Full service is not expected back for several months.
ATU 279 president Andre Cornellier has accused the city of punishing drivers with an unnecessarily long plan for returning to service.