The B.C. government confirmed today $18.9 million in service reductions on BC Ferries to be implemented beginning this spring.
The reduction in the senior’s discount will also go ahead, and the government will pursue a gambling pilot project.
“We are making these tough decisions today in the interest of the taxpayers of B.C., and for the future of the coastal ferry service and the communities they serve,” said minister of transportation and infrastructure Todd Stone.
BC Ferries will meet with designated community representatives to refine the schedules on the affected minor and northern routes, taking into account the community input received during engagement.
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The final schedules for the affected routes will be made public by the end of March.
BC Ferries will also implement further changes to the major routes (Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay, Tsawwassen to Duke Point and Horseshoe Bay to Departure Bay) prior to April 2016 to achieve $4.9 million in savings. Minor and northern routes will not be affected by these changes.
With respect to Route 40, government and BC Ferries are responding to issues raised by Bella Coola residents during the engagement by expanding the summer connector service. This service between Bella Coola and Bella Bella will increase from one sailing per week to three to four sailings per week in the summer, using the MV Nimpkish.
Effective April 1, seniors (65 and older) travelling Monday to Thursday on major and minor routes will pay a half-price passenger fare. Currently, B.C. taxpayers cover the full cost of their passenger fare. Government will continue to provide the same level of funding to BC Ferries. The additional revenue from seniors’ passenger fares will help reduce pressure for future fare increases, benefitting all ferry users. Seniors currently pay full price for their vehicle, and will continue to do so.
Government is pursuing a gaming pilot project on one of BC Ferries’ major routes and revenues would be directed to reduce pressure on future fare increases.
Taxpayers have provided an additional $86.6 million to BC Ferries to 2016 to help reduce the pressure on fares. That brings provincial and federal funding to over $200 million this year and to $1.7 billion over the last 10 years to support coastal ferry services. As well, BC Ferries is on track to find $54 million in efficiency improvements to 2016.
“Better alignment of service levels to the demand, while protecting basic levels of service, is necessary to ensure a coastal ferry service that’s affordable, efficient and sustainable for future generations,” said Stone.