Bus service to replace Greyhound is one step closer for people in the Williams Lake area provided by Merritt Shuttle Bus Services Ltd. who announced earlier this month it plans to run a bus service through the Cariboo.
The company’s co-owner Gene Field told the Tribune Wednesday he is hopeful by Dec. 1 there will be a bus in place to offer services from Williams Lake, Quesnel to Prince George on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for passengers and freight.
In an earlier interview with the 100 Mile Free Press Field said the bus service would be going through 100 Mile House from Spences Bridge with pick up spots in Cache Creek, Clinton and 70 Mile House.
The plan for Williams Lake, Field said, is to pursue establishing a passenger pick up spot at the Husky Station on Highway 97 and cargo-handling on Mackenzie Avenue South where U-Haul is now.
“We will be picking up people at 7-11 in Quesnel and the cargo pick up would be K2 Courier Services Ltd.,” Field said, noting the company hasn’t secured a spot in Prince George yet.
If the route from Williams Lake north proves to be busy, it could be expanded to five days a week, he added.
“Our tickets will be from Merritt to Spences Bridge, from Spences Bridge to Williams Lake, from Williams Lake to Prince George because I don’t want my drivers driving seven hours there and seven hours back,” Field explained. “Plus, because we are using smaller buses we need to do more rest stops along the way.”
Merritt Shuttle Bus Services Ltd. will be providing service all the way from Prince George to Langley, he added.
“If people need to get to Kamloops they would have to come to Spences Bridge and then catch the bus to Kamloops and Merritt.”
Field’s father, Dallas Gorrill, is going to drive the Williams Lake to Prince George route.
“He moved to Williams Lake last year and is an ex-truck driver,” Field said of his father, noting the company is hiring former truck drivers and former Greyhound bus drivers.
“A lot of the people I’m hiring are retired,” he added. “I don’t really care about age, all I care about is if you are physically and mentally fit to do the job and you have a good driving record. My number one concern is safety.”
The Dec. 1 opening in Williams Lake is dependent on funding from the federal government, Field said.
“I just got a call from the passenger transportation branch because we have a deadline of Nov. 21 to get two buses on the road. So I’m going to be talking to the board to extend the deadline to Dec. 1. Even if we get the buses early I want to make sure they are road-worthy and safe and winterized.”
Consultation with First Nations communities
Field said the company will have an Aboriginal liaison officer to work with women’s organizations in First Nations communities.
“She’s going to meet with them to find out what transportation needs they have,” he explained. “Then we can put an appropriate-sized bus on those routes. There are 23 bands just between Spences Bridge and Williams Lake and then there’s eight in the Lower Nicola area were we are in Merritt and then the ones from Williams Lake to Prince George.”
The company will also be providing bus services to mines and Field said he has heard there are people living in First Nations communities who are trained to work in mines that would benefit by having access to bus services because they have no way of getting to work.
Field said he and his wife moved to Merritt about two years ago.
She is a preschool teacher and he previously worked in security.