Four transportation companies are vying to become the main bus carrier for the Ottawa-Gatineau-Montreal corridor.
The widely coveted route has been up for grabs since Greyhound announced it would cease its Canadian operations in May — a year after it paused service due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Currently, Montreal-based Autocar Orléans Express is licensed to carry riders between Ottawa, the Outaouais and Montreal on a temporary basis.
In addition to Orléans Express, three other companies have applied for permits from the Commission des Transports du Québec (CTQ), the province's transportation regulator.
The companies are: Rider Express Transportation Corp. of Calgary; Trentway-Wagar Inc., which operates Megabus in Canada; and Groupe Autobus Maheux, located in the town of Rouyn-Noranda in the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region of western Quebec.
The CTQ will select one or more carriers after holding public hearings where the companies can make their pitch and answer questions from officials.
In an email, the commission said hearings to consider Rider Express's application took place in June and July.
For Orléans Express, hearings are scheduled for Aug. 18, 19, 20, 24 and 25 and for Trentway-Wagar on Aug. 26 and Sept. 27 to 30. As for Autobus Maheux, the CTQ said hearings have yet to be scheduled.
The commission normally renders its decision within 90 days of the end of a hearing. A decision authorizing the issuance of the bus transport permit takes effect on the date it is rendered, the CTQ said.
Autobus Maheux wants to set up in Gatineau
In a press release, Autobus Maheux said it wants to set up a direct, express route between Gatineau and the cities of Laval and Montreal, without buses having to make a detour via Ottawa and Highway 417.
The company said it intends to provide a separate service on the Ontario side, connecting Gatineau and Ottawa to the Montreal-Trudeau International Airport.
In an interview with Radio-Canada, the president of the company confirmed his intention to establish facilities in Gatineau, including a bus station, if the company obtains the requested permits.
"We want to make Gatineau our base of operations for these new services, hire local staff, have local suppliers and have our own facility for staff and vehicles," Pierre Maheux said in French.
Autobus Maheux also intends to offer a regional service along Route 148, with daily stops in Masson-Angers, Thurso, Plaisance, Papineauville, Montebello, Fassett, Grenville, Lachute and Saint-Eustache.
"Although they have suffered service cuts over the years, these communities have always been served by the Quebec interurban transport network," said Maheux.
"We intend to maintain and improve the service, and we are the only carrier offering to do so."