With the BC Bus North funding expiration looming at the end of March, immediate renewals for the financial support of the transportation service are being called for by BC Liberals.
“BC Bus North is a critical service in northern B.C. connecting remote communities and providing safe transportation to residents,” Michael Lee critic for Transportation and Infrastructure said, in a press release issued on Feb. 24.
The transportation service route runs two round trips weekly from Prince Rupert to Prince George, north to Fort Nelson, and south to Valemount.
“It is an extremely valuable part of the province’s transportation network. Letting the funding lapse would have devastating impacts on so many communities, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic when so many other transportation services are at risk due to the challenges posed by the virus,” he said.
Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) told The Northern View through a media representative that Greyhound’s decision to eliminate service in 2018 left people in the north vulnerable and stranded – especially Indigenous communities, women, seniors, children, and people with disabilities.
“It is now more important than ever that we support these vital transportation networks,” Lee said. “Transportation Minister Rob Fleming needs to take real action and provide continued funding for services like BC Bus North …” Lee said. “… British Columbians need to know that the services they depend on will be available to them for years to come, and it is the responsibility of the Minister to provide certainty today.”
Northcoast NDP MLA, Jennifer Rice agreed with the opposition party representative that the bus service is vital along Hwy 16 and said it is one of the top issues she hears about from residents of the Northcoast.
However, it was the NDP that stepped up in a time of need to create BC Bus North when Greyhound cancelled bus services, she said.
“While the BC Liberals were in government, they spent years pointedly ignoring the desperate need for better transportation options in the North,” Rice said.
“This included doing nothing for many long years to address the appalling number of disappearances of primarily Indigenous women and girls along the Highway of Tears.”
The number of riders using the services differs by 4,000 in the information provided with Lee stating in the media statement 9,000 riders have used it since its inception. In an email, to The Northern View, MOTI said the number was more than 13,000 from 2018 to Dec. 2020, with 14 per cent or 1820 riders travelling between Prince Rupert and Terrace.
“We are going to continue supporting safe transportation solutions in the North to ensure they’re there when people need them,” Rice said.
“The BC Government is fully committed to continuing to fund the BC Bus North service,” the transportation ministry said. “Access to transportation in the north is a priority for this government.”
“We continue to work with our federal counterparts, communities, and other stakeholders, and expect we will be able to share more details soon,” MOTI said.
K-J Millar | Journalist
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