Bus service that replaced routes abandoned by Greyhound in northern B.C. last year will stay in place after the provincial and federal governments reached a deal on Wednesday.
B.C. Transportation Minister Claire Trevena reached the agreement during a meeting with her federal counterpart Marc Garneau to split funding on BC Bus North, which connects several northern and rural communities such as Prince George and Fort St. John.
The province launched the $2-million service on an interim basis last June, three days after Greyhound cut back in the region due to dwindling ridership.
The deal ensures the interim service, which was set to expire at the end of the next month, will last until September as the details are worked out.
“I expressed our government’s firm belief that people in our province need to have access to safe, affordable and reliable long-distance ground transportation,” Trevena said in a statement about her meeting with Garneau.
“The current interim service in the north established by our government last year has been well received and is relied on by many individuals and organizations,” she added.
B.C.’s Ministry of Transportation is expected to provide Garneau with a list of routes and costs that the deal will cover — the agreement is set to last for two years.
There will be no cap on how much Ottawa will pay for the arrangement, Garneau said.
BC Bus North operates two round trips per week between Prince Rupert and Prince George, Prince George and Valemount; and Prince George to Dawson Creek and Fort St. John. It also offers a single weekly round trip between Fort Nelson, Dawson Creek and Fort St. John.
Prices for a one-way ticket range from $35 to $45, depending on the distance.
More than 4,500 people have used BC Bus North since its launch, with 20 per cent saying they rely on the service for their jobs, B.C.’s transportation ministry said.
“Intercity bus services are important for the people of British Columbia and for Canadians across the country, particularly for those in Indigenous, rural and remote communities where other transportation options do not exist,” Garneau said in a statement.
“We are working to find solutions and are encouraged by B.C.’s interest to collaborate on this issue.”
Garneau has offered a similar cost-sharing deal for routes left behind by Greyhound in northern Ontario and other western provinces, but on Wednesday said that B.C. is the only province to have accepted the deal.
More routes covered
Meanwhile, the Passenger Transportation Board (PTB) last week approved Adventure Charters & Rentals to operate two inter-city bus routes in an effort to fill more gaps left by Greyhound.
The company will offer service from Prince George to Surrey through the Fraser Canyon, and another route from Williams Lake to Kamloops, starting May 2.
Shorter routes within the region connecting other communities like 100 Mile House are also being looked at for future service, the company said in its announcement on April 15.
Greyhound’s abrupt exit from Western Canada last year left B.C. with only two routes: one between Vancouver and Prince George, and another between Dawson Creek and northern Alberta.
Other routes through the Okanagan and southern regions of the province have been covered by private companies including Alberta long-haul carrier Ebus.
— With files from the Canadian Press
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