The B.C. Passenger Transportation Board has officially approved Greyhound’s plans to shutter a series of northern bus routes including the only one that goes into the Yukon.
The board approved Greyhound’s application to cut routes because of millions of dollars in losses due to declining ridership.
In a written decision issued earlier this week the board says passenger demand for the service has declined 46 per cent since 2010.
It says routes that were once profitable are no longer providing enough revenue for the company that receives no subsidies and has lost $70 million in B.C. over the last six years.
Among the routes that will get the axe is the Dawson Creek, B.C., to Whitehorse route that includes stops in Watson Lake and Teslin.
“We regret having to do this and we appreciate that these changes will be difficult for our customers and staff,” said Stuart Kendrick, Greyhound Canada’s senior vice president, in a statement.
“These route eliminations are an important step toward becoming a viable, streamlined intercity bus service as we address declining passenger ridership.”
The statement said freight service will continue: Greyhound plans to set up “partnership agreements to continue services for our freight customers.”
The board said Greyhound can’t eliminate the routes before June 1, 2018.
Calls to Greyhound asking for more information about the Yukon route were not returned in time for today’s deadline.
Watson Lake’s chief administrative officer Cam Lockwood said the end of the bus route will inconvenience people in the community.
“There’s a lot of uncertainty because Alcan Air is the only other service that comes in here and Alcan just reduced their flights to Mondays and Fridays starting March 1st,” he said. “So they’ve cancelled their Wednesday flight. So now it really makes it hard for people that have to travel.”
Last year Greyhound pitched that a fund be created to subsidize bus companies working in rural communities.
Yukon’s Highways and Public Works Minister Richard Mostyn said he had “cordial” conversations with officials from Greyhound but the idea of the fund was never brought up.
Mostyn has maintained that the Yukon government will not subsidize a private company. His opinion hasn’t changed, he said.
“I’m not gong to subsidize a money-losing venture that the professionals in the business can’t make money at.”
Mostyn said he’s also not going to pressure the federal government to wade in where he’s not willing to go.
If there’s money to be made, Yukon businesses will step in, he said.
“Across the territory people have made do without bus service forever. This is certainly going to inconvenience some people … in that corridor between Whitehorse and Watson Lake but there are plenty of other people who have never had bus service in the territory.”
Lockwood said the community has had inquires from someone about possibly setting up a taxi service but nothing official has come of that.
Watson Lake MLA Patti McLeod agrees that Greyhound should not be subsidized by the government.
“In the absence of Greyhound bus service I suppose there is an opportunity for the private sector to step in. I think government could help with that process by having discussions with communities and potential operators and coming up with innovative ways to help them succeed,” she said.
McLeod suggested the government reduce taxes and look at ways of eliminating red tape to help businesses.
She said the community relied on the bus particularly to get to Whitehorse for medical appointments.
“It’s an added cost for rural Yukoners to get to Whitehorse to receive medical treatment and with Greyhound ceasing service it just puts a whole other level of stress on patients.”
With files from the Canadian Press
Contact Ashley Joannou at firstname.lastname@example.org