Proposed Greyhound cuts 'death knell'

'It's not just about money, it's about social services'

Jason Hewlett and Murray Mitchell / Kamloops Daily News
October 11, 2012 01:00 AM

Cody Dillabough accompanies his grandmother, Marlene Magnowski, boarding a Kamloops bus to return home to Quesnel Thursday. Magnowski is concerned that route reductions could make it more difficult for her to attend out-of-town medical appointments and will cause her to rely more on family and friends for transportation.

Calling it the death knell of rural B.C., TNRD directors have vowed to fight a Greyhound Canada application to the province's transportation board to cut bus routes in Kamloops and surrounding towns.

Directors also want the province to allow smaller, regional bus companies to plug the growing holes in the national company's services.

"We're extremely disappointed in the North Thompson at the cutbacks to services," said John Harwood, who represents the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board in Clearwater.

"It's not just about money, it's about social services. We continue to see the erosion of services in rural communities. This is the death knell for rural communities."

Greyhound Canada wants to cut numerous routes in B.C. - including runs from Alberta and Prince George, which go on to Vancouver and intersect between various small communities - and would see three departures eliminated from Kamloops.

Kamloops will lose the 9:45 a.m. to Vancouver, noon to Edmonton and 4:30 p.m. to Prince George, said Grant Adsen, Greyhound's regional manager for B.C.

There will still be two trips a day from Kamloops to Prince George, one to Edmonton and three or four to Vancouver, said Adsen.

The cuts will also drop services in several rural communities by one run but in some cases, there is only a bus a day travelling through town.

In Spences Bridge, Greyhound might as well stop running altogether, said director Steven Rice. As is, passengers have to run into the middle of the road and flag a bus down.

"It's deteriorating to the point where we don't have a bus stop," said Rice.

The proposed cuts are unfortunate, but it comes down to money, said Adsen. Fuel and maintenances costs are on the rise and the company can't afford to sustain these routes.

"I apologize. It's unfortunate. But it's economics," he said.

After the last cutbacks, Merritt resident Paul Campbell took it upon himself to buy three buses and start his own service from the Nicola Valley to outlying areas, said Mayor Susan Roline.

But, when he began advertising his routes, the province told him to desist, saying Greyhound has the monopoly in B.C., said Roline.

Director Marg Spina said the province should allow other companies to take over any routes Greyhound can't service.

Adsen said the province must decide if another bus service can operate, noting Greyhound has never staked such a monopoly.

Campbell continued to run his Merritt Bus Lines as a charter service until this past summer, when he let business fade out. He was allowed to operate as long as he didn't advertise, he said.

He charged $80 a busload, which had a capacity of about 20 people. If the province allowed him to do so, he'd love to make a go of his mini-bus line, he said.

Greyhound passengers aren't thrilled at the prospect of fewer routes. Jill Thomas of Summerland was on 24-hour bus trek through Kamloops on Thursday to see a grandson near Fort St. John and is concerned that cuts could make visits more difficult.

"If it wasn't for this bus, I wouldn't be able to afford to see him," she said, noting a concern about longer layovers, which could result from route changes.

She hobbled from bus to bus on crutches because of a broken ankle.

Marlene Magnowski of Quesnel said the proposed route cuts are ridiculous and that she relies on buses to get to out-of-town medical appointments.

Calgary-based Randy Easthouse said he travels to Kamloops twice yearly on business. Although he won't be affected by the route changes, he sympathizes with others and feels competition is needed.

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