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Gabriolans express views over ferry route cutbacks

A final decision on route cuts to the Gabriola Island-Nanaimo ferry run could come in January, said the vice-chairwoman of the Gabriola Ferry Advisory Committee.

Sailings at the end of the day and during early morning weekend hours had originally been suggested as cuts but the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure has been holding meetings in affected communities to hear from residents, including at Gabriola Island Tuesday night.

An estimated 400 people turned out to the meeting at the Gabriola community hall.

“We’re understanding that they’re going to come back and try and meet with us in January and say, ‘OK, here’s what the options are, given the consultation in your community,’ and then the ferry advisory committees are somehow magically expected to say yea or nay to this,” said Dyan Dunsmoor-Farley, vice-chairwoman of the Gabriola Ferry Advisory Committee.

There has been no formal notification from the Ministry of Transportation regarding a date in January.

Schedule changes are set to take effect on April 1 along with a four-per cent rate increase (an increase of 3.9 per cent is set for April 2015).

Sheila Malcolmson, chairwoman of Islands Trust council, said Gabriola residents are receptive to other sailing cancellations because reduction in night time sailings will not work, especially for people who work late.

“There were some people who were very clear that their shift work is completely dependent on the ferry schedule that is in place right now,” Malcolmson said. “A lot of people said they will lose their jobs or they will have to sell their house in fast order if the specific sailings that have been [suggested for cancellation] by the government go through.”

Residents have expressed dismay at the route cuts and Dunsmoor-Farley said the system is broken, as cuts and increased fares leads to fewer riders. She estimated the decline has levelled out to about one per cent per year.

“I expect with service cuts and schedule changes and then two more years of fare increases, it’s going to start going down again,” said Dunsmoor-Farley. “How do we expect to fund this system when the actions of the corporation and government create a business environment in which the consumer either chooses not to use the service or can’t afford to use the service?

“It just doesn’t make any sense,” she said.

The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure was contacted for comment but did not respond in time for press.

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