The B.C. provincial government has scrapped an emergency order giving residents on ferry routes priority access to boarding.
Passengers had complained that the policy was being abused, and BC Ferries admitted that it was resulting in waits of up to eight hours for non-resident travellers who did not have a reservation.
The ferry workers’ union said delays were stretching beyond 12 hours and creating abusive conditions for workers.
The policy was enacted in March, under the Local Authorities and Essential Goods and Supplies (COVID-19) Order, and was intended to ensure residents could get to their properties amid significant cuts to ferry service early in the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We wanted to ensure people could get home and to help ensure essential services for remote communities were maintained,” Transportation Minister Claire Trevena said in a media release.
“We expect BC Ferries to put the public interest first. Now that ferry service levels have increased with more British Columbians travelling within the province, we expect BC Ferries to continue to monitor demand and ensure adequate capacity is in place.”
On Thursday, the province also announced a change to the medical-assured loading program for the ferry service.
The program is designed to allow patients priority access to ferries when travelling for necessary procedures.
Earlier this month, Global News reported that changes to the program meant patients in need of priority loading had to arrange for a doctor’s letter prior to every trip, or for an extended period if the dates of all necessary appointments were already known.
Previously, a single letter was valid for a one-year period, provided the patient had a TAP pass, which includes up-to-date documentation for a medical appointment at their destination at the time of boarding.
Under an executive order announced Thursday, patients with a TAP pass will again be able to use a doctor’s letter for up to a one-year period, which will not require a specific date or time or number of occasions for travel.