VANCOUVER - Residents in remote communities across British Columbia will be cut off from bigger centres when Greyhound cuts bus service on various routes, says a union spokeswoman representing drivers and other staff on Vancouver Island.
Jeannie Blaney of the Canadian Auto Workers, Local 114, said Friday the union has been conducting an online campaign against the service cuts since Greyhound announced plans to slash routes.
The company filed an application to the B.C. Passenger Transportation board last October, saying it's not profitable to continue service to some areas.
Blaney said the union urged the board to deny the bus company's request and lobbied communities to join its fight before Greyhound was allowed to scale back unprofitable routes.
"We've done leaflet campaigns, button campaigns, just trying to inform the general public about what these cuts would entail. It's not concern about job losses, it's the connection to these remote communities," she said.
"It's not so easy to get into these remote communities and Greyhound was it."
Blaney said it's hard to know at this point how many people will lose their jobs and when service will be slashed.
Transportation Minister Mary Polak said she will not interfere with the transportation board's ruling.
Polak said if service adjustments had not been allowed, Greyhound might have pulled out of the province entirely.
She said 75 per cent of the routes remain and speculated that Greyhound's decision could create openings for regional carriers willing to pick up the slack.
"We have every reason to believe there are other private carriers who may, at this juncture, wish to step in and offer their services on smaller, more contained areas of the province," Polak said.
One company, Tofino Bus Service, is already waiting for word on its application to run buses on several of the routes Greyhound has reduced, including between Campbell River, Courtenay, Nanaimo and Victoria.
Owner Dylan Green is hoping his Tofino-based firm has some advantages over Greyhound — including access to a local maintenance shop and the ability to use mini buses rather than motor coaches when demand is very low.
Randy Murray of the Thompson-Nicola Regional District said reduced service will affect nearly 130,000 people in 11 municipalities covering 46,000 square kilometres.
He said the district board also sent a letter to the transportation board last October about its concerns over reduced bus service in the central Interior.
"We tried to explain to them that the erosion of Greyhound bus service to our rural areas is something that's really disconcerting to us and we requested of them that they encourage Greyhound to continue the service," he said.
"We have heard from our local area representatives who heard from their constituents about just how difficult that can be for seniors and the infirm and folks who really have no choice and have a home in rural areas," Murray said.
"They may need to get into Kamloops or other centres for medical attention or to visit family or whatever it is they're doing. They rely on that service and now they're going to have a much, much tougher time."
District of Summerland Mayor Janice Perrino said she understands the cost issues for Greyhound but the district needed time to work out transit issues for people who now can't access bigger centres.
"There's no consultation, they just write you and say it's done," she said.
"We've been working on regional transit starting from the south and working through the area but it's really disappointing that this is cut off now, before we're able to get that going." (The Canadian Press, CHNL, CKAY, CKFR)