B.C. Transportation Minister Claire Trevena says the full-scale withdrawal of Greyhound bus service from Western Canada has taken everyone by surprise, and efforts are underway to arrange other private coach services to pick up the routes.
Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett was left reeling and angry after Greyhound Canada’s announcement.
“It is devastating to rural British Columbia and goes to show you, once again, rural British Columbia is not on the agenda.”
Apart from one route, from Vancouver to Seattle, the bus service will only run in Ontario and Quebec by the end of October.
“It’s shocking,” she said, half-an-hour after she’d heard the news.
For many people in rural B.C. who don’t drive, Greyhound was their only way of getting around the province, she said.
People go to the coast, visit family or loved ones and go on vacation, she said. Many tourists even come into town on the bus.
Pulling out this service will “restrict people’s movement,” she said,
Barnett asked the same question many people will have to ask themselves in October, after the change takes place: “What now?”
Krista Toebes, of 100 Mile House, said Monday that both she and her significant other used to rely on the service frequently.
“When there is no longer a bus service, I will have to find another way and at this time I am unsure of what that may be.”
She said the news was devastating for her and others who depend on Greyhound to get out of town.
“I really hope that someone can come up with a viable option between now and then.”
Barnett said they’d known Greyhound was having issues with their service in northern B.C. and that the opposition party tried to convince the NDP to do something about it, but “it’s obvious they didn’t.”
“Our taxes keep going up and our services are being depleted,” she said.
She was waiting to see what the minister of transportation’s long-term plan would be and said whatever that may be, it had better happen quickly.
Trevena said Greyhound did not connect with her or her staff before making their announcement, to alert them of their plans, talk about the issues they faced or to brainstorm potential solutions.
She added that she would be speaking with “other service providers, the private sector and local government” in the coming weeks and months, to find transportation between communities.
“In the meantime, I hope that other local, private operators will see an opportunity to bring a badly needed service to the parts of the province most affected by Greyhound’s decision,” she said.
For South Cariboo residents who will be affected by the loss of the bus service, Barnett suggested they write to Trevana to ask what the plan will be in October.
When asked whether she thought letters would make a difference, she said, “All you can do is try.”
Employees at the Greyhound station in 100 Mile House had been told to direct all calls for comment to the customer service line, a 1-800 number that takes you to an automated phone service without the option to speak to a person.
BC Transit’s service on Highway 16 to replace Greyhound service that ended in June is a pilot project for that region only, and private services are being sought to take up the other areas, Trevena said.
The last Greyhound bus pulled out of Terrace on June 1 with a single passenger on board, symbolizing the struggle of long-haul bus service in parts of the province. B.C.’s Passenger Transportation Board approved cancelling seven B.C. routes that Greyhound said had accumulated losses of $70 million in the past six years.
B.C. Bus North began interim service on June 4, with two round trips a week between Prince Rupert and Prince George, Prince George and Valemount and Prince George to Dawson Creek and Fort St. John.
Trevena said she is meeting with transportation ministers from Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba on Thursday, to see if the federal government can help provinces deal with the lack of bus service.