Victoria bus company wins Greyhound’s former routes

With Greyhound’s departure from B.C. less than two weeks away, three companies — including Victoria-based Wilson’s Transportation — have received approval to operate new bus routes between Vancouver, Kamloops, Kelowna and the Alberta border.

Greyhound said in July that it will pull out of B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and northern Ontario at the end of October, after suffering millions of dollars in losses from a 46 per cent drop in ridership since 2010. Only a bus route between Vancouver and Seattle will continue.

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In order to restore service to people who will be affected by the service cancellation, B.C.’s Passenger Transportation Board, which is responsible for approving inter-city bus routes, is “fast-tracking” applications and using a simplified process to encourage operators to fill the gap on routes that will be abandoned by Greyhound.

According to the board decisions, “Greyhound’s departure from B.C. will leave many areas of the province without inter-city bus service and access to essential services, such as work and education, and safe transportation.”

The first to be approved was an application from Regina-based Rider Express Transportation, which plans to operate a route from the Alberta border to Vancouver via the Trans Canada HIghway and Highway 5.

There will be 14 stops, including Golden, Salmon Arm, Chase, Merritt and Langley. It will be a reservation-based service that runs seven days a week, with two departure times each day. It will use four, 55-passenger wheelchair-accessible buses on the route.

Rider Express eventually plans to run service between B.C., Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario.

Wilson’s Transportation, which operates as Island Connector or B.C. Connector, was also approved to run a “commuter, express-style service” between Vancouver and Kamloops, and Vancouver and Kelowna. The proposal is to operate one trip per day in each direction on a reservation-only basis.

Wilson’s already provides charter bus service on Vancouver Island, and cross-ferry transportation between Vancouver and Victoria. The company has also applied to provide service between Vancouver and Whistler, but a decision has not yet been made on that route.

In August, Trail-based Silver City Stagelines received approval for a reservation-only Nelson-Kelowna route that runs a minimum of six times per week and stops in Castlegar, Trail, Grand Forks, Greenwood, Midway and Rock Creek. It replaces the company’s Trail-Castlegar route.

The Passenger Transportation Board has received other applications for routes between Richmond/Burnaby and Whistler, Vancouver and Whistler, and in and around the Nicola Valley, including Merritt. Decisions are pending.

Alberta-based Diversified Transportation, doing business as Ebus, proposes to add two routes serving Vancouver, Kamloops and Kelowna.

The Vancouver-Kamloops route will provide daily semi-express departures from Vancouver and Kamloops — one in the morning and one in the afternoon or evening. Buses will travel along Highway 1 and Highway 5, and additional stops could be made in Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Hope and Merritt.

There will also be two daily express departures from both Vancouver and Kamloops via Kelowna in the morning and afternoon. The first leg of the trip will be between Kamloops and Kelowna along Highway 1 and 97, via Vernon, and the second leg is between Kelowna and Vancouver along Highway 97C, Highway 5 and Highway 1. Bookings for the reservation-only service will be made via website, over the phone and in person.

Diversified already offers transportation services in five provinces and one territory.

John Stepovy, director of business development with Ebus, said the company is moving “full steam ahead” and hopes to be up and running by Nov. 1, so there is no interruption in service when Greyhound withdraws.

“We’re about two weeks away from Nov. 1, so it’s certainly going to be a challenge for us, absolutely, to get going but as things sit right now that’s still our plan,” he said.

Stepovy said the company received inquiries over the past few years from communities across the province about expanding into B.C., and Greyhound’s exit provided an opportunity. Ebus is looking at expanding further in the future.

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