The Government of New Brunswick has announced that a new ferry is expected to be in service at the Belleisle Bay crossing by fall 2018. Transportation Minister Bill Fraser made the announcement at the Belleisle Community Centre on Saturday.
Fraser said the current vessel being used in Belleisle will be moved to serve Kennebecasis Island because the ferry being used there has been a rental since 2015.
“The Kennebecasis ferry was taken out of service in 2015 because it was decommissioned,” Fraser said. “As part of the budget process last year we made the decision to purchase a new vessel which is currently under construction. It’ll be ready in the fall, late 2018, and then we’ll be able to return the rental vessel that we have.”
Fraser said adding the new ferry to the fleet will save $750,000 in rental fees annually.
“This is one of the busiest runs in the province,” Fraser said. “Approximately 320,000 passengers per year.”
In October, the province announced they would be adding a new $6.5 million ferry to its fleet. Fraser said the province signed a contract with Ocean New Brunswick Inc. for the construction of the new 15-car vessel, that’s currently being built at the naval centre in Bas-Caraquet.
Kars, N.B., resident John Urquhart was in attendance at the announcement and said it’s great to gear the province will be putting the new ferry in the community.
“It wasn’t that long ago that the government was going to remove the ferry altogether,” Urquhart said. “We convinced them to leave the ferry there, and now by giving us a brand new one, it shows their commitment that the ferry is going to run indefinitely into the future.”
He said residents rely heavily on the ferry because the majority of people work outside of the community, with the ferry serving as a main road to many.
Urquhart said two years ago there were road washouts in the area and the ferry was the only way to get road repair equipment into the community.
“If the ferry hadn’t been there it would have taken much longer before the residents of Kars and Wickham were able to get to the outside,” Urquhart added.
READ MORE: Future of Gagetown ferry unknown
“One of the great things here today is that we’re going to involved the local community to name the new vessel, and we’re asking people to submit their suggestion to the department of transportation,” Fraser said.
The Minister said once all the entries are received on March 21, they will work with the local service district chairs and the committees to chose a name for the new vessel.
Fraser says the 2018-2019 capital budget for the Department of Transportation is $688.2 million, with $412.1 million dedicated to transportation related projects.
Gagetown residents continue plea for ferry service
Residents in the Village of Gagetown, N.B, had mixed emotions about the new ferry going to Belleisle Bay.
Gagetown and Area Chamber of Commerce president Carolyn White said she’s happy to hear other communities will get to keep their ferry service, but said it’s also disappointing they are still without a ferry.
“We had thought here’s an opportunity to have the government step in and demonstrate that they actually are thinking about this region, with the suggestion of putting the old Belleisle Bay ferry and moving it to Gagetown. I mean our infrastructure is all here and we’ve certainly been doing our best to try to explain why it is important that it is in this part of the region as well,” White said.
“Save the Gagetown-Jemseg Ferry” group member Wilf Hiscock said the cancelled ferry service is hurting tourism and business.
“We are very disappointed, but we’re not surprised by today’s announcement by Minister Fraser. It’s just one of the long line of disappointments we’ve had in the last two years concerning a ferry for this area,” Hiscock said.
Fraser said the government won’t reconsider restoring ferry service to the area. He said when the decision was made to stop ferry service in the Gagetown-Jemseg area, the vessel wasn’t able to be used for ferry service anymore because it didn’t meet all of the standards that the federal government had put out for ferry service. Fraser said the cost of repairing the vessel would have been “significant.”
“We had to make a tough decision a couple of years ago when we were going through our strategic program review process and the decision to remove the ferry was a tough one and we understand the frustration of the people in the community. The decisions been made and I’ve made it very clear that we wouldn’t be reversing that decision,” Fraser said.
Fraser said there is an alternate route available and said the crossing has the lowest ridership in the river system fleet.