March 13, 2019 9:22 pm
Updated: March 14, 2019 1:45 pm

Interior Health bus means connecting Okanagan, Shuswap not a priority: government

Watch: The Okanagan hasn't had Greyhound service for more than four months but what's stepped into replace it has been piecemeal.

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When Greyhound stopped serving B.C. at the end of last October the impact was felt in many parts of the province.

Four months after the transportation behemoth left B.C. — with the exception of one route connecting Seattle and Vancouver — the province has revealed it is prioritizing replacing some Greyhound service over other routes.

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The provincial Transportation Ministry said Wednesday that it “continues to work hard to fill the gap left by Greyhound,” but that “it is important that we focus our immediate efforts on finding coverage for routes that currently have no access to other transportation services.”

Last November, the province made a request for expressions of interest, billing it as an attempt to “fill remaining gaps left by Greyhound” and listed eight routes it was looking for providers to serve.

READ MORE: As Greyhound leaves new companies offer Okanagan bus service

However, that list was not comprehensive. For instance, it didn’t seek expressions of interest to replace the Greyhound service that linked Salmon Arm with the north Okanagan through Enderby and Armstrong.

WATCH: Concerns raised about gaps left by Greyhound departure (October 2018)

The province said the Salmon Arm to Okanagan route didn’t make the list because “Interior Health Connections provides these communities with accessible transportation options to non-emergency medical appointments.”

“Although medical appointments have priority on the Interior Health Connections, everyone is eligible to use this service if space is available,” the Transportation Ministry said in a statement.

READ MORE: B.C. teen reunited with his family after Greyhound nightmare

The province said the routes it did advertise for help filling “were selected because these are routes that are not serviced by any other provider.”

While no one has yet applied to replace the Salmon Arm to Vernon,Greyhound route, there is piecemeal service by BC Transit between many north Okanagan communities.

Greyhound replacement facing bumps in the road

Meanwhile, to make matters worse for Greyhound riders in the Shuswap, one of the replacement providers their appears to be facing challenges.

Rider Express, the only company licenced to provide service from Vancouver all the way to Alberta is applying to cut the number of trips it is required to makes on part of that route.

Instead of daily service it wants to provide weekly service on the portion of the route from Kamloops to the Alberta border, making it more difficult to travel to and from the Shuswap.

READ MORE: End of an era for Greyhound bus service in B.C.

If schedules on the company’s website are correct, it may have already dropped down to weekly service on that part of the route.

The Ministry of Transportation said officials are looking at whether “Rider Express is currently in compliance with their licence.”

“We expect that as new services come online, there will be some adjustment to existing schedules — with operators trying to best meet ridership demands,” the ministry said in a statement.

“The Branch works with licensees on a case-by-case basis, with the aim to inform first and then enforce regulations to allow licensees the opportunity to become compliant.”

In the same application, Rider Express is also asking to serve additional routes between Kamloops and Kelowna, Merritt and Kelowna and Kelowna and Penticton.

Rider Express has yet to respond to requests for comment.

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