September 15, 2017 8:50 pm

Greyhound applies to cut service in Similkameen Valley

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Changes could be coming to some British Columbians’ regular Greyhound route.

The company says it lost millions of dollars on its passenger service in B.C. last year, and now it has applied to the province’s Passenger Transportation Board to completely stop servicing some areas and be allowed to reduce service levels across the board if needed.

In the Similkameen Valley, the company is seeking to completely stop passenger service to the Hedley and Keremeos area by rerouting a route between Vancouver and Osoyoos through Kelowna.

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Elsewhere, it wants to reduce the minimum service level on all routes to just four stops a week.

That’s a drastic change in some communities.

For example, in Vernon, if Greyhound’s proposal is approved, it would be allowed to drop service on one route from 42 stops a week down to four.

However, the company said even if it gets approval to reduce minimum service levels, it won’t necessarily be reducing service on any given route.

Instead, Greyhound said lowering the minimum will give the company more flexibility to respond to demand.

The proposed Similkameen service cut doesn’t sit well with the president of the local chamber of commerce.

“Fundamentally, it just makes our community less accessible,” said Chris Mathieson, president of the Similkameen Country Chamber of Commerce.

“We’ve already seen the changes over the years as the Coquihalla was put in and people [were] not taking the highway here as much anymore. It is difficult for our seniors to be able to get into town.”

However, the company said the status quo is simply not sustainable. It says it lost almost $13-million last year on its passenger service in B.C.

“We’ve been in an operating deficit since 2004,” said Peter Hamel, the regional vice-president for Greyhound Canada in Western Canada. “There has been a steady decline in overall ridership of 46 per cent in B.C. since 2010.

“We certainly regret having to be in a position to make this decision. We understand that there will be impact to communities… However, in most of the corridors that we are seeking abandonment, there are other players.”

In the Similkameen Valley, that other player is BC Transit, which is running a bus service between Penticton and Princeton.

Overall, Greyhound said if it gets approval, any changes would not be implemented until 2018.

Any passenger service cuts are not expected to impact the company’s courier service.

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