by Heather Ramsay-It wasn’t broken before, but now BC Ferries is scrambling to fix the problems islanders and other travellers have faced in trying to get timely information about the Skidegate-Prince Rupert ferry service.
Queen Charlotte mayor Carol Kulesha said BC Ferries is taking seriously the community’s need to have current arrival and departure information, after several complaints were lodged about the service.
On Monday (March 5), she reported to Queen Charlotte council that Roberta Chartier, who is in charge of the reservation system at BC Ferries, is addressing two issues: providing local access to information after hours, and providing current information.
Ms Chartier told the mayor, who is also a member of the BC Ferries Advisory Commission, that she has asked for a change to the system that replaced the local telephone numbers in late January.
As of Jan. 29, customers were redirected to a central customer service centre when they called the Skidegate terminal. The centre is only open from 7 am to 10 pm and is now responsible for recording messages about current conditions and other service notices.
Ms Chartier told Ms Kulesha she wants to make sure that anyone calling into the central BC Ferries number will be able to get live current information from the terminals. She said she will request the change right away, but it may take several days to implement.
Ms Kulesha said she is keeping complaints in a folder at the village office and will keep BC Ferries informed. Another issue she has heard is the difficulty people are having finding information on the website.
She said the problem with no local telephone number became very apparent over the weekend when a large group of students were on the ferry trying to get to their ski trip. The ferry did not leave on schedule Thursday (March 1) and was still in the dock until Friday evening. Parents were trying to get information and the main reservation line was not nearly as helpful as the local telephone number had been.
BC Ferries spokesperson Deborah Marshall said if islanders have concerns or complaints about the new information system, they should call the customer care line at 1-877-222-1949.
The change was done because BC Ferries wanted to streamline its reservation system. The northern terminals were the only ones in the system which took reservations, and Ferries wanted to have all reservations handled through its 1-800 number instead.
The fact that islanders can no longer phone the Skidegate terminal for current schedule information is an inadvertent effect of the reservation system change.
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