POLITICS

B.C. transportation minister says ferry terminals won't be closed in Nanaimo

11/29/2013 03:41 EST | Updated 01/29/2014 05:59 EST
KAMLOOPS, B.C. - British Columbia's transportation minister says the government will not close any ferry terminals in the Vancouver Island city of Nanaimo as it considers cost-saving measures such as smaller vessels.

"What I can say to the people of Nanaimo and Vancouver Island, unequivocally, is that there are no plans to close either of the terminals in Nanaimo," Todd Stone said Friday.

The minister's declaration that there are no plans to close one of the terminals came after a Nanaimo Daily News report said he hadn't ruled out that idea.

However, Stone said there are likely to be "service adjustments" in the coming months to the two routes — Duke Point to Tsawwassen and Departure Bay to Horseshoe Bay.

"We are going to continue to be vigilant and conduct analysis on those routes to ensure that they as are efficient as they possibly can be, all in the effort to achieve additional savings," he said.

"Part of this could involve different vessels on these routes — vessels of different configurations, smaller vessels," Stone said, adding further analysis will be required before changes are made.

The two routes are busier than many of the northern routes for which service cuts have already been announced, he said.

Stone said that while some private operators are working on a proposal for passenger-only service between Nanaimo and Vancouver, that has nothing to do with BC Ferries.

BC Ferries has a plan to upgrade the Horseshoe Bay terminal at a cost of up to $250 million, Stone said, adding the money will have to come from savings elsewhere.

The government has already announced that some routes, especially minor ones in small communities, will see service cuts if ridership is less than 20 per cent.

Seniors will also be required to pay 50 per cent of ferry fares instead of riding for free on Monday-to-Thursday sailings, starting in April as BC Ferries aims to save $18.9 million by 2016.

Revenue may also be raised from slot machines on some vessels as the government conducts a pilot project on the Swartz Bay to Tsawwassen run.