A group of school bus operators north of Guelph, frustrated over a provincial pilot project that opens school bus routes to tender, has launched a lawsuit.

“It’ll be 50 companies that will be wiped out by Christmas,” says Karen Cameron of the Independent School Bus Operators Association.

Epoch, Cook, Doug Akitt and a numbered corporation were among the first to feel the effects of the project, which they say has destroyed their businesses.

Cameron adds “For all intents and purposes [they] aren’t school bus companies anymore, being left with one route is actually worse than being wiped out.”

The new lawsuit names the province, two school boards in Guelph and the local transportation consortium the boards use to handle the bussing.

Guelph’s school boards were among the first to adopt the pilot project.

One of the boards, the Upper Grand District School Board, says they were surprised to hear about the lawsuit.

Martha Rogers, director of education, says the board has confidence in the province’s plan and how it was implemented.

“Our grants weren’t reduced, our expenditures were reduced and we were able to reduce our walking distances for our students in Grades 7/8 down to 3.2 kilometres, and [Grades] 9-12 down to 3.5, so it was very successful.”

But Cameron says while the number of companies involved in the suit could grow to 10, it’s more than just the independent bus operators who will feel the negative effects of the program.

“[Operators] are struggling to stay alive, and what that means for charters, what that means for sports teams, other community groups, is that those charter rates for everything is going up. The home to school transportation is going down, but everybody else in the community is going to pay more.”

Cameron draws a parallel between a recent lawsuit by a number of car dealerships against General Motors that was settled out of court to the situation between school bus operators and school boards.