The winter of 2009 has come back to haunt Montreal's commuter-train authority.
Yves Boyer, a disgruntled train user, has been granted permission to proceed with a class-action lawsuit in the name of holders of passes for the Deux Montagnes and Dorion-Rigaud train lines.
The lawsuit covers January and February 2009, when Agence metropolitaine de transport suburban services were plagued by long delays, chronic overcrowding and trains that never arrived.
About 46,000 people use those two lines daily.
Boyer says affected passengers should get back a portion of the cost of passes for those months, plus damages, for a total of about $10 million.
The permission was granted by Quebec Superior Court Judge Andre Prevost in a decision handed down Sept. 3.
Boyer, a Pincourt resident, filed the request for permission to file the suit last year, complaining he and other users suffered serious inconveniences because of delays and cancelled AMT trains.
Commuters were late for work, missed meetings and were forced to cancel evening activities and scramble to reorganize travel via taxi, car or bus, Boyer complained in his application.
In addition, the repeated long delays caused travellers to "become aggressive and tense, creating an unpleasant and uncomfortable atmosphere both on platforms and in train cars," he added.
Boyer said the delays were caused by train doors that were frozen shut, frozen train switches, broken-down locomotives and rundown train cars, among other things.
At the time, the AMT apologized for the problems and offered a discount on passes.
But Boyer told the court only 63 per cent of affected users took advantage of the offer because they weren't given enough time and the rebates were only available at a limited number of stations.
In the ruling, Prevost said the court will have to determine whether "the AMT breached its contractual obligations towards (its users) by not meeting its timetable."
Boyer had asked for compensation for late trains during the months of December 2007 and February and March 2008, but Prevost ruled there was not enough evidence to support that claim.
A court date for the lawsuit has not yet been set.
The AMT says on-time performance has improved. It says trains were on schedule 96 per cent of the time across its five lines in 2009. That compares to 75 per cent on the Dorion/ Rigaud line in January 2009, when trains were often 20 or 30 minutes late.
Another commuter angry about late public transit is also taking his case to court, but on a much smaller scale.
Jeremy Cooperstock, a McGill engineering professor on a crusade against late Societe de transport de Montreal buses, has filed a suit in small claims court over late buses on the 24 and 129 lines, which run on Sherbrooke St. and Cote Ste. Catherine Rd.
He is demanding $64 in compensation, including taxi-fare reimbursement and "token compensation." In the past, the STM has reimbursed Cooperstock $40 in taxi fares after complaints.
The STM says in 2009, its buses were on time 83.6 per cent of the time.