‘Stupid, not convenient’, say Port councillors about ferry schedule

  • Aug. 8, 2008 1:00 p.m.

The late Thursday-night ferry sailing to the mainland is “a way of life” on the Charlottes and it is hard to believe that the BC Ferry Corp. would change it with no consultation, Port Clements mayor Cory Delves said this week. Port council members learned of the schedule change at their Aug. 5 meeting from Queen Charlotte mayor Carol Kulesha, who has been exchanging emails with BC Ferries on the issue. According to the BC Ferries website, there will be no more Thursday night sailings as of Oct. 1. It will be replaced by a sailing departing Skidegate at 6 am Fridays, arriving in Prince Rupert at 1 pm. The Thursday departure is the most popular sailing of the week during the winter season, council members said. Changing it to leave early Friday morning will be especially inconvenient for Port and Masset residents, who will have to wake up in the middle of the night in order to arrive at the terminal at least 90 minutes before departure time. The pre-weekend sailing is the one that students usually take to attend sports tournaments, and is also well-used by islanders travelling for medical appointments. “That’s when the kids go off,” said councillor Wally Cheer. “Dragging your kids out of bed at 3 in the morning – that’s stupid.” “It is definitely not convenient,” agreed councillor Urs Thomas. Council members voted to write to BC Ferries urging the company to restore the sailing. “I don’t know what else we can do other than be fairly forceful in our disappointment,” Mr. Cheer said. The regular Monday and Tuesday mid-morning departures remain the same in the new schedule. In an email exchange with BC Ferries, Ms Kulesha first expressed disbelief at the news the Thursday sailing had been canned. “This is the most important sailing of the week – people take it to do business and health services in PR on Friday and return on the weekend with the least amount of time missed from work…. Tell me this is an error.” Two days later, Ms Kulesha received a reply from employee and community relations advisor Matthew Burns, saying that the change was no error. Mr. Burns gave two reasons for the decision: the dock modifications which will be done this winter to accommodate the new Northern Expedition, and a revised Rupert-Skidegate crossing time of seven hours. “It is our hope that this change to schedule will allow for greater predicability in our schedule and allow for us to meet our advertised schedule on a more consistent basis,” Mr. Burns wrote. In a reply which she copied to several islands leaders, Ms Kulesha replied that much more explanation was needed. “You need to explain why a seven-hour crossing excludes a midnight sailing and why you are having on-time problems when we have to line up hours in advance of sailing. A 6 am sailing means passengers need to be at the Skidegate terminal at 4 am. This is horribly inconvenient as well as dangerous for winter driving from Masset,” she wrote. “You are telling us that without consultation you have made a permanent change to the most popular weekly sailing. This is not good community relationship building.”

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