‘Wiggle room’ available in cuts to Gabriola ferry

NANAIMO – Transportation Ministry to consult with community on which sailings to cut.

Early morning and late-night ferry sailings to and from Gabriola Island will likely not be eliminated.

Ferry route reductions have been a worry of Gabriola residents ever since they were announced by B.C. Ferries and the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure last November, but in a conference call late yesterday morning, Transportation Minister Todd Stone said there would be wiggle room regarding which routes would be cut.

Stone said service cuts would take effect on April 28 and prior to that, B.C. Ferries would meet with designated communities, such as Gabriola Island, to discuss which routes to reduce in order to lessen the impact to the community while achieving the ministry’s goal of saving $18.9 million over the next two years.

“There are opportunities, on certain routes, to eliminate midday sailings in favour of keeping early-morning or late-evening sailings, which was a common theme we heard from many communities during the engagement [with affected communities in November and December],” Stone said.

Final schedules will be made public by B.C. Ferries at the end of March.

Gabriola Ferry Advisory Committee chairman John Hodgkins said island residents are still disappointed that there will be cuts and the advisory committee is looking ahead to other routes that can be reduced.

“What the ferry advisory groups are now doing is trying to look at the least worst option and there have been suggestions to make changes to the services in the middle of the day,” Hodgkins told the News Bulletin, adding it would present new problems.

Hodgkins said the ferry advisory committee saw details of a B.C. Ferries proposal that would see the reduction of a sailing between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m., plus one in the mid-evening. Possible problems arising would take place during the summer as there was a “potential overloading issue” with all the tourists.

He said one of the things the ferry advisory council indicated to B.C. Ferries was the need to supplement services in the peak summer months.

“At this stage, B.C. Ferries has not proposed any seasonality to the schedule so they’re not looking to provide as much capacity during the summer months as is currently available and that’s going to cause some pretty sizable lineups for ferries unless we’re able to convince B.C. Ferries that they need to make some provision for that,” said Hodgkins.

He said that ferry advisory chairpeople were scheduled to have a conference call with B.C. Ferries yesterday afternoon.

On top of the route reductions, Stone also said that the ministry would go ahead with a pilot project that would see gaming machines on ferries but the plan was still being developed and no routes had been designated for the machines.

The ministry is also going ahead with a reduction to a seniors’ discount.

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