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Ferry cuts tweaked after Gabriola residents’ input

Cuts to late-night ferry sailings to Gabriola Island will not be part of a new B.C. Ferries schedule that comes into effect April 28.

After sailing cuts were initially announced by B.C. Ferries and the Ministry of Transportation in November as cost-saving measures, consultation with residents and Gabriola Ferry Advisory Committee has led to a more palatable ferry timetable.

The 6:30 a.m. ferry from the island will operate seven days a week and the final ferry from Nanaimo will depart at 11:05 p.m., six nights a week, save for Sundays, which will see its last sailing at 10:30 p.m., according to the advisory committee.

The 11:05 a.m. ferry from Nanaimo and the 5:35 p.m. ferry from Gabriola on Wednesdays will only be used to transport dangerous cargo.

Between June 25 and Sept. 5, an extra daytime sailing will be added between Monday and Friday to account for the summer tourist boom. But in order to accommodate that, the final round trip on Sunday night will no longer operate. One round trip 52 weeks a year will be exchanged for 52 extra sailings in the summer, advisory committee chairman John Hodgkins said in an e-mail.

According to Hodgkins, a working group sought input from the community and made recommendations to B.C. Ferries. The majority of feedback was from people who use the ferry to commute to work and the group focused its attention on ensuring most work and educational trips were taken care of, particularly for shift workers from Nanaimo Regional General Hospital.

“The outcome is a schedule that we believe meets the vast majority of essential needs but still delivers the government’s savings target,” Hodgkins said. “We recognize, however, that the new schedule will not suit everyone.”

Deborah Marshall, B.C. Ferries’ media spokesperson, said establishing the best possible schedule was a give-and-take situation with the community.

“They obviously had concerns about reducing the sailings into the later evening, so that was determined that we could extend the [interval between sailings] in the middle of the day on the Gabriola Island run and then that would enable us to still [keep] night service and still realize the savings outlined by the province,” Marshall said.

However, Hodgkins said with the longer midday gap between ferry departures, there was the potential for ferry overloads.

“We will be encouraging everyone to think carefully about whether they could travel at less busy times of the day,” he said.

A summary of all the changes can be found at www.gabriolafac.com. B.C. Ferries was expected to announce final changes to the schedule yesterday.

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