Northerners are missing the bus

Three times a week, Greyhound bus passengers enter Watson Lake’s Gateway Motor Inn for hot food and drinks.

Three times a week, Greyhound bus passengers enter Watson Lake’s Gateway Motor Inn for hot food and drinks.

And there’s always a room rented where the off-shift driver sleeps.

“Now it’s very quiet,” said Gateway manager Wilma Koehl.

The Greyhound Canada bus strike, which started last week, is impacting a number of communities along the highway and Watson Lake is one of them.

Koehl’s restaurant is losing quite a bit of money, she said.

“And our hotel freight is in limbo.

“There’s no newspapers, no nothing.

“We’re kind of cut off.”

Koehl had just been in contact with a couple of women who had doctors appointments in Whitehorse and were planning to take the bus.

One woman tried to change her appointment, but couldn’t get another date, said Koehl.

“And now they have to somehow find a ride to Whitehorse.

“To us (the strike) is a problem here and I hope they resolve it soon.”

Seniors are being hit hardest, said Watson Lake electronics retailer Werner Schneeberger.

“Many are incapable of driving and rely on the bus to get to medical appointments in Whitehorse,” he added.

Schneeberger’s store, Shopping Unlimited, also relies on the bus for overweight freight shipments.

“A lot of services have been cut out,” he said.

In Pink Mountain, where the bus makes a meal stop, Buckinghorse River Lodge is losing roughly $1,200 a week.

“We make our money from the bus, handling customers and freight,” said owner Howard Shannon, who sees anywhere from six to 25 customers each trip.

Shannon’s employees also rely on the bus.

“That’s how they get to work,” he said.

“I have workers coming from Dawson Creek and Fort St. John.”

It’s part of the contract, he said.

“I supply the transportation.”

Now, with the strike, Shannon has been forced to hire family members to drive his employees to the lodge for shifts.

Hall’s Food and Gas Services in Wonowon has a similar problem.

“I have 14 staff and the bus is how all of them get back and forth to work,” said owner Dennis Hall.

“Now, they’re hitchhiking.”

Working 10 days on and five off, Hall’s staff travel as far as Vernon and Terrace.

“It’s a very poor situation,” he said.

“Anybody up and down the highway from Fort St. John to Fort Nelson relies on the bus.”

Hall’s Food and Gas is a pick-up point for passengers and parcels.

“People come to get a parcel and often gas up, or have a coffee or meal while they’re waiting,” he said.

“So there’s no doubt we’re losing business.”

Last week, roughly 1,200 unionized motor coach drivers, mechanics, ticket handlers, courier parcel staff and bus loaders walked off the job after 360 jobs were cut.

The cuts are a result of the Americanization of the company, according to union reports.

As a result, Greyhound has temporarily suspended passenger and parcel delivery services in BC, Alberta, Yukon, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.