Island bus lines get $3.35 million to keep inter-city routes running

Four Island bus lines will split more than $3.35 million in provincial grants designed to maintain essential inter-city connection.

Wilson’s Transportation will receive $1.47 million, its Tofino Bus Service will receive $1.15 million, the West Coast Express will receive $704,700 and the North Island’s Waivin Flags will receive a $27,000.

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The grants are part of $6.2 million in funding that was announced earlier this month for bus transportation around the province.

The money is intended to allow the sectors to maintain essential operations until the end of March 2022.

John Wilson, president of Wilson’s Transportation, has called the grant money a lifesaver for the biggest inter-city transport company in the province. Before the program was announced, he noted the company had considered permanently cutting some of its 10 inter-city routes.

Wilson’s operates a number of bus services, ­including links between ­Victoria, Vancouver and Vancouver ­airport, as well as ­connections between ­Victoria, Tofino and other Island ­communities, and between ­Vancouver and ­Whistler, Kelowna and ­Kamloops.

Twenty inter-city bus ­operators and 55 regional airports will receive money from the grant program to maintain services.

“Our government is working to keep vital services operating during this unprecedented time, and this funding will help British Columbians — especially those in rural areas of the province — have a safe and reliable way to travel to essential appointments,” said Minister of Transportation Rob Fleming. “We know inter-city bus companies and regional airports were in critical need of funding to keep their operations going during COVID-19. With this investment, inter-city buses and regional airports will now have the funding they need to continue operating and serving people.”

The province has issued a one-time investment of $6.2 million to bus operators and $16.5 million to regional airports to support operations until the spring of 2022.

The money is to be used for operating costs, like maintenance expenses for buses, air terminals and runways. The funds will also go toward payroll, rent and other overhead costs to keep these services operating.

aduffy@timescolonist.com

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