FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — With less than two months before Greyhound is allowed to pull out of Northern B.C., Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Claire Trevena says the government does not yet have a plan for a replacement.
In Ferbruary, the Passenger Transportation Board ruled that Greyhound would be permitted to cut nine routes in B.C., including service between Prince George and Whitehorse. Greyhound says that ridership on routes connecting the northern half of B.C. with Prince George has declined by 51 percent since 2010, including a 30 percent drop in the last five years. The company said it was losing $35,000 per day, or nearly $13 million per year.
The Board ruled that Greyhound would be allowed to cease serving Northern B.C. after May 31st, though the company was not given permission to stop service between Dawson Creek and Edmonton.
Trevena travelled to Smithers and Prince George this week for meetings with local government and First Nations leaders about the loss of service. She said that while officials agreed that there is a need for a service to replace Greyhound, what that replacement is has not yet been determined.
“There’s the thought of maybe we need community buses to get people from smaller from smaller communities to the bigger centres where they can get a longer-distance bus. There was talk about having a hub-to-hub bus service rather than a bus service that goes straight through. And there is still the question about whether we could have a service that will those longer-distance routes.”
The Minister did point out that the short-haul service offered by BC Transit on Highway 16 has seen a large uptick in passenger numbers, but added that the service is not a complete replacement for Greyhound. Trevena said that local government officials are also concerned about what the funding model would be, especially having the extra costs downloaded onto them.
Trevena also effectively ruled out looking at the government relaunching a passenger rail service in Northern B.C. BC Rail previously operated a passenger rail service that was subsidized by the provincial government between North Vancouver and Prince George which ended in October of 2002. Trevena explained that since freight trains are given priority over passenger trains on rail lines in B.C., the current backlog of freight and volume of freight trains in B.C. could result in passengers being stranded for hours at a time waiting for other trains to pass.
Trevena said that the government is trying to find a replacement as quick as possible, but that it won’t likely be before Greyhound is allowed to cease service on June 1st.