Regular BC Ferries users between Alliford Bay and Skidegate will have to end their daily business earlier following cuts to service.
BC Ferries released the final schedules for the minor and northern routes, including the Kwuna route, effective April 28, The final ferry will leave Alliford Bay each night at 5:35 p.m. and Skidegate at 6:10 p.m.
“The province’s decision was to keep it to a 12-hour day. It keeps BC Ferries from an overtime situation, so it was mostly a labour savings from that route,” said Darin Guenette, spokesperson for BC Ferries.
“It was as late as possible based on a 12 hour day that started in time to get a 7:20 a.m. sailing from Alliford Bay. We could move the 12-hour window, but it made sense because the communities needed some relatively early morning service. That’s the best we could come up with.”
BC Ferries held meetings with community leaders and stakeholders on the 16 affected routes to discuss options. Guenette said Kwuna stakeholders expressed the importance of morning sailings so people on the Alliford Bay side could get to work and students to school.
Guenette said there were legitimate concerns on the importance of evening sailings in the summer, however early morning sailings were crucial.
“Unless you sacrifice the morning, the 12-hour window can only shift so much,” he said.
“I think we did the best with that we could.”
Evan Putterill, North Coast and Central Coast Ferry Advisory Committee chair, said the sailings cut are “marginally better than what was put forward by the province” but are still a disappointment.
“They could have provided a schedule that would have worked better for the community,” he said.
Putterill said the ferry advisory committee made a number of suggestions on how to structure the 12-hour shift to lengthen the day for commuters while also hitting key times for students commuting to high school and traffic coming to and from the Sandspit airport.
“BC Ferries management listened to us on a couple of those things, but with regards to stretching the day out our recommendation [could have lengthened the day] by an extra 30 minutes, which is pretty significant for people commuting to and from work,” said Putterill, adding the committee was pushing for BC Ferries workers to have a split shift with a break in the middle of the day, a model being used on some southern routes.
“They were not flexible on that.”
Putterill said the new schedule will not work in the long term and he has already planned his next step to resolve the issue.
“I’m going to be recommending to the local governments and First Nations governments on Haida Gwaii to start lobbying to get an alternative service provider, rather than have BC Ferries operate the route so that it can be more flexible and responsive to local needs.”