Tuesday, February 21, 2017

B.C. Ferries to increase sailings for Prince Rupert-Skidegate run

The calls for improved service between Prince Rupert and Haida Gwaii have finally been heard by the province, and Monday British Columbia's Transportation Minister Todd Stone outlined the government plan to add  an additional bi-weekly round trip for the mid-September to mid-June portion of the BC Ferries schedule plan.

The increase partially restores the service levels of a year ago, though still comes up somewhat short of providing a return to the frequency of sailings crossing Hecate Strait that were found only a few short years ago.

The topic of ferry service reductions has been a long standing irritant on the North Coast and Haida Gwaai, with the issue of some interest to the UBCM in September of 2014.

Still, Monday's announcement is a start towards what many will hope will be further additions to come and if the numbers tell a story, there is more than enough potential ahead for expansion further along the calendar.

Monday's announcement to increase the sailings comes as statistics indicate that ferry usage is on the increase on the Skidegate to Prince Rupert run, with the level of vehicles travelling the route up by 15 percent last year.

Additional numbers reviewed from December show an additional 8 per cent jump for vehicles and passengers, which is listed as double the average increase that has been seen across the BC Ferries system.

Before the additional service is introduced the Province and BC Ferries will have to negotiate the increased service fee that will be required to support the service. A theme that may find a bit of push back from those that use the service.

Over the last few years, BC Ferries has added special sailings as demand has warranted, the announcement of Monday, follows up on that demand making for a more permanent addition to the existing service.

The peak summer service will not see any change with five round trips a week schedule from Mid June to Mid September.

Transportation Minister Todd Stone, took note of the growth level in the service to this point as part of Monday's announcement.

“Adding more ferry sailings between Haida Gwaii and the mainland will support the increased demand and improve access for local residents and businesses,” .... “The substantial growth in traffic on this route is good news for the regional economy, and travellers will benefit from the additional scheduled trips.”

For his part, North Coast Regional District Board Chair Barry Pages expressed his belief that the additional sailings will provide a range of benefits to both the North Coast and Haida Gwaii.

“More frequent sailings will be a welcome improvement for our residents who rely on this service to Haida Gwaii as our marine Highway,”  ... “Our residents appreciate the Province and BC Ferries recognizing the need for these extra sailings that will help serve our communities and growing tourism economy.”

The full information release from the Ministry of Transportation can be reviewed here.

For more items related to Transportation on the North Coast see our archive page here.

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