05/21/2015 06:50 EDT | Updated 05/21/2016 05:59 EDT

BC Ferries drops plan to cut service on its main money-making routes

VICTORIA - BC Ferries says it will scuttle plans to trim services on its money-making routes between Vancouver Island and British Columbia's mainland and instead will find other ways to cut $4.9 million.

Ferries spokeswoman Deborah Marshall said Thursday the major routes earn up to 80 per cent of company revenues, while the minor routes on the Gulf Islands and at northern ports are traditional money losers.

Marshall said cuts to the Vancouver Island to Metro Vancouver routes would hurt the company's bottom line because it means fewer customers.

"We earn 80 per cent of our revenues on the majors," she said. "That's where we definitely see the high-traffic volume. The major routes cross subsidize the minor routes."

Sailings were reduced on 16 of the smaller routes last spring. Marshall said since 2008, major routes were cut by eight per cent, including the cancellation of some weekend sailings.

"But it just wouldn't benefit the system at all to be cutting any more service," she said.

The major routes include Swartz Bay near Victoria to Tsawwassen south of Vancouver, Departure Bay in Nanaimo to Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver and Duke Point in Nanaimo to Tsawwassen.

BC Ferries has been engaged in an effort to cut costs by $54 million and stop rising fares. Route and service cuts were billed as primary targets to hit that target.

Last year, Transportation Minister Todd Stone rejected proposals by BC Ferries to close ferry terminals at Horseshoe Bay and Nanaimo to save money.

BC Ferries Commissioner Gord Macatee stated in a recent report that BC Ferries is exceeding its effort to cut the $54 million from its budget. He also announced he will hold fare increases at less than two per cent until 2020 after allowing annual increases in the four-per-cent range.

"Four years ago, BC Ferries' customers were facing the possibility of ferry fares rising by as much as 80 per cent on some routes," said the March report. "Today, on a preliminary basis, we are able to set the annual increase in the price cap at 1.9 per cent for the next performance term.

Clearly, the province and BC Ferries have done a great deal of work to create a more efficient, affordable and sustainable coastal ferry service in British Columbia."

The Ferries commissioner regulates fares and service levels and acts independently of the provincial government and BC Ferries Inc.