Investment of 338 million | Exo will acquire a new fleet of 100% electric buses

Quebec and Ottawa will provide 338 million to “transform the business model” of exo, which oversees several local bus routes in the Montreal suburbs. The organization will thus become the owner of a new all-electric fleet.

Posted at 1:35 p.m
Updated at 3:23 p.m

Henri Ouellette-Vezina

Henri Ouellette-Vezina
The press

“All of exo’s bus service activities are currently contracted out to private transport companies. Each of them has its own fleet,” Transport Minister François Bonnardel said Monday afternoon, speaking on the sidelines of a Trajectoire Québec dinner conference.

He says the situation has “made bus electrification very difficult” as they are private investments that very few companies can support. “That was a barrier to entry. A solution was needed that would help exo to become the owner of its bus fleet and workshops while also allowing the private sector to operate and maintain the buses,” said Mr. Bonnardel.

Overall, exo aims to acquire more than 135 electric buses over the next five years. A first phase of work will take place by 2027 with an investment of 338 million, “of which the bulk of the funds will come from the Quebec government for the purchase of a hundred electric buses and the construction of two interview garages”. says the ministry. The latter specifies that the final financial package “will depend on exo decisions”, but also on “the availability of federal funds”.


PHOTO HUGO-SEBASTIEN AUBERT, THE PRESS

exo’s CEO, Sylvain Yelle

“Within 20 years we want to own the entire bus fleet, which could include up to 1,000 electric buses,” confirms exo Managing Director Sylvain Yelle. The first purchases should begin in 2024, he says. His group, which currently owns 600 buses, also aims to build 10 garages within 20 years. The first two will be on the southern crown.

Three years ago, in 2019, exo came to the conclusion in an opportunity analysis that its business model would be “more advantageous” if it owned its own fleet of buses, including workshops for their maintenance.

So far, the exo-networks have mainly consisted of local lines using incentive parking. From there express lines depart to the city center. Buses will now mostly depart from Brossard station, with the difference being that the lines will mainly serve the suburbs in between. The REM will take care of getting people who want it downtown.

A new financial framework

Minister Bonnardel also announced on Monday the forthcoming establishment of a “financial framework” for the period 2023-2028 to fund public transport. This was a request from the municipal sector. With this, Quebec wants to give “more predictability” to the industry, whose finances and traffic have been hit hard by the pandemic.

“The government recognizes that public transportation needs constant funding,” the elected official said, but reiterated that Quebec “cannot be alone on this act” and called on “all levels” of government and the transit company to to follow this example.

At the Autorité régionale de transport métropolitain (ARTM), Director General Benoît Gendron welcomed the news. “The future is now. Predictable and consistent public transport funding is an investment in developing people’s quality of life, productivity growth, fighting congestion and urban sprawl…priorities we continue to advance,” he wrote in writing.

“It seems like a step in the right direction. Of course, we need to find new sources of funding, but we are satisfied that there is a political will to work on it,” said Trajectoire Québec Director General Sarah V Doyon. His organization has been calling for a “rebalancing” of investment in public and road transport for some time that “would not require new sources of funding.”

The effects of REM

In mid-April, exo had warned that the arrival of the Metropolitan Express Network (REM) on Montreal’s south coast will mean a “major change” for its bus network, which can no longer use the Samuel-De Champlain Bridge to get into the city center . According to the company, it wants to take the opportunity to redevelop its range of services between the districts.

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