The B.C. government says Haida Gwaii’s two BC Ferries routes are among 10 to receive more sailings as the province moves to restore cuts made in 2014.
The announcement comes as the Ministry of Transportation releases a review on BC Ferries operations by special advisor Blair Redlin.
The report includes the restoration request made by the BC Ferry Advisory Committee. The ministry said in a news release Friday the sailings will be added as early as spring and through the year. Both the Haida Gwaii to Prince Rupert and Skidegate to Alliford Bay routes are marked for increased sailings.
Following the announcement North Coast NDP MLA Jennifer Rice issued her own press release welcoming the news. “Today’s announcement to reinstate services to 2014 levels is fantastic news for people on the North Coast. For too long, commuters from Bella Coola to Prince Rupert and Haida Gwaii have not received adequate service. I’m delighted to welcome the return of sailings for our coastal communities serviced by these three critical ferry routes.”
In 2014 the province altered its contract with BC Ferries to reduce the number of winter sailings between Haida Gwaii and Prince Rupert from three per week to two, or 27 per cent. Service was also slashed 35 per cent between Skidegate and Alliford Bay.
“In 2017 some sailings were added back for Route 11, however local residents are still concerned that the 2014 cuts have not been made up and those dependent on ferry service still have trouble accessing needed services,” the report reads.
It noted numerous affects on Haida Gwaii communities including significant backlogs for truck transport, trip cancellations by tourists and residents stranded in Prince Rupert when travelling for medical or other reasons.
“The social fabric of Sandspit has been hit the hardest by the cancellation of the late evening sailing on Route 26,” the report reads. It further noted the reduction deeply impacted the safety of Sandspit residents by impeding BC Ambulance and Queen Charlotte RCMP access.
The report recommended the Alliford Bay route receive priority funding to restore evening service and return to the two eight-hour shift staffing model rather than the current single 12-hour shift.
A total of 2,700 round-trip sailings will be added to the BC Ferries network: Crofton-Vesuvius, Earls Cove-Saltery Bay, Horseshoe Bay-Bowen Island, Port Hardy-Prince Rupert, Haida Gwaii-Prince Rupert, Powell River-Texada Island, Nanaimo Harbour-Gabriola Island, Campbell River-Quadra Island, Quadra Island-Cortes Island, Skidegate-Alliford Bay.
B.C.'s #MoT has announced it is increasing service on 10 ferry routes that were cut in 2014, restoring 2,700 round-trip sailings for people living in coastal communities #BCFerries #bcpoli ROUTE DETAILS BELOW: pic.twitter.com/kKAtA1V6XA— Ashley Wadhwani (@ashwadhwani) February 22, 2019
Transportation Minister Claire Trevena said this is step two in her efforts to better services for affordable ferry services in smaller coastal communities.
In April 2018, the NDP government reduced fares on smaller and northern routes by 15 per cent, froze fares on other major routes and reinstated the Monday-to-Friday, 100-per-cent discount for seniors.