Mont. Co.’s Berliner wants to recoup costs from bus fires

ROCKVILLE, Md. – A total of seven Ride On buses burst into flames in three years in Montgomery County. While the county was already planning on replacing the 28 Champion-brand buses, the fires forced the county to speed up the replacement process and added a $150,000 cost to the process.

The county shouldn’t have to shoulder that cost, says Montgomery County Council President Roger Berliner.

“We ought to be all over these people,” he says.

Berliner says he is in favor of recouping the costs legally

“That’s what lawsuits are for,” he says.

Berliner says one or two incidents could have been written off as anamolies, or freak incidents. “But after that, it’s not weird, it’s not ok.”

Drivers have been expressing concern and telling county officials, “This isn’t fun, this isn’t safe,” Berliner says.

When asked about a case in which a fire broke out on board after the driver allegedly ignored a dashboard warning signal and kept the bus in service, Berliner says it was his understanding that the incident was under investigation.

Bill Griffiths, division chief for the county’s Fleet Management Services confirmed there is an investigation underway.

The investigation includes a third party consulting firm as well as the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, according to Griffiths.

Griffiths says the 28 Champion buses, models that look like a shuttle bus, were replaced with Orion buses. The Orion buses are older and purchased from WMATA. They are temporary until new buses ultimately replace the Champions in 2013.

WTOP’s Kate Ryan contributed to this report. Follow Kate and WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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