Friday, September 19, 2014

Threatened Greyhound bus cuts to impact area

Greyhound Canada’s announcement yesterday stating it will stop service in Manitoba in 30 days, and discontinue it in Northwestern Ontario by Dec. 2, likely will have an impact locally if the proposed cuts go through.
The international bus company wants the federal and provincial governments to step in, saying it needs $15 million in public money and help to cover its losses in order to continue service to rural Canada.

Greyhound also is reviewing routes in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, the Yukon, and Northwest Territories.
“It’s going to effect everybody in Canada in my mind,” said Paul Bock, who runs the local bus depot. “I can’t imagine how that can even happen. . . .
“It will definitely affect us if there’s no bus into Thunder Bay, there’s nobody coming here from Thunder Bay if they can’t connect,” he noted.
“I’m pretty such something’s got to give there somewhere, but I don’t know what that is,” he admitted.
Caribou Coach Transportation Company currently runs a bus service from Fort Frances to Hearst while Excel Bus Lines serves between Fort Frances and Kenora.
Greyhound buses then continue service from Kenora west to Winnipeg and eastward from Hearst.
“It’s really not going to affect our operations that much because we deal very much with the local folks along Highway 11,” noted Sandy Smith, president and owner of Caribou Coach.
“We may have to make some adjustments at the Thunder Bay end as far as where our terminal is going to be based because, currently, all our buses arrive and depart from the Greyhound Terminal.
“But for the foreseeable future, it will be business as usual,” he stressed, although conceding the cuts likely will have a direct impact on the company on the freight side of things.
“People are able to ship things out of Fort Frances to go to Toronto and we connected through with Greyhound, so that’s going to be a little bit of an issue,” Smith said.
“But we’re looking at ways of resolving that conflict by using other carriers if Greyhound isn’t able to resolve things at their end,” he explained.
Smith feels that if Greyhound’s bus service in Northwestern Ontario is discontinued, there will be other ways to replace it.
“Greyhound hasn’t come out as to whether its definite or final, but I’m sure if it does end up happening . . . that there will be opportunities for companies that exist already in the region, or others that might look at coming up this way, to make sure service continues,” Smith remarked, though stressing he can’t speak about how things operate in Manitoba—only about bus service along the Trans-Canada Highway down to Sault Ste. Marie.
He agreed there’s a lot of talk going around about the threat to discontinue service.
“And we’re still getting details from Greyhound as to what is going to happen, what they’re looking to derive out of this,” Smith said yesterday afternoon. “We’ll keep close watch on it.”
Tasha Cross, manager of Excel Bus Lines, had no comment yesterday afternoon, having only received word about Greyhound’s announcement late that morning.
While Greyhound said its routes between major cities are profitable for the most part, the company indicated it is forced by regulations to effectively subsidize service to small-town Canada, including shipping parcels.
“The decision to cease our operations in Northwestern Ontario and Manitoba was a very difficult one,” Greyhound senior vice-president Stuart Kendrick said in a statement.
“We have repeatedly asked the federal and provincial governments to change the existing legislative and regulatory regimes that govern inter-city bus operations.
“Our financial situation is dire, and we no longer are in a position to absorb losses that are almost solely attributable to government policies,” he argued.
But federal Transport minister John Baird said Greyhound’s “actions are heavy-handed and clearly an attempt to bully the provinces of Manitoba and Ontario.”
Meanwhile, New Democrat MPs John Rafferty (Thunder Bay-Rainy River) and Bruce Hyer (Thunder Bay-Superior North) are calling on the Harper government to intervene and prevent the elimination of Greyhound intercity bus service to Northwestern Ontario.
“These service cuts will be catastrophic to the social and economic fibre of our region, and the Harper government must do everything in their power to stop them from happening,” Rafferty said in a press release issued yesterday.
“Local transportation options for people in northwestern communities have already been slashed under decades of cuts to VIA Rail and skyrocketing gas prices,” Rafferty added. “For many, the bus is the only way they have left to travel out of town for medical treatments, work, and to see family and loved ones.
“This is much more than just one company cutting service, this is the last option being cut off,” he stressed.
Ken Boshcoff, former Liberal MP for Thunder Bay-Rainy River, believes the move of Greyhound is irresponsible of a national company.
“There is a solution and when we first started hearing about this in 2005, as MP I asked every municipality and every First Nation to support my effort to send a message to stop this process,” he remarked.
“I believe if Northwestern Ontario had united then, we would not be facing this today.
“So once more, if we stand in a common front, I’m certain we can overcome this,” he pledged.

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