The BC Ferry Powell River Queen departs Campbell River en route to Quadra Island Wednesday afternoon. BC Ferries has announced changes to the schedules for the Campbell River-Quadra Island and Quadra Island-Cortes Island routes effective Feb. 9.

Schedule adjustment ‘falls short’

Change of schedules announced this week by BC Ferries is said to fall short of addressing the larger problems facing the service

Commuters from Campbell River to Quadra Island will soon have their evening sailing back.

But a change of schedules announced this week by BC Ferries falls short of addressing the larger problems facing the service, said Jim Abram, chair of the Strathcona Regional District. And it does not restore ferry runs cut last April in a cost-saving move by BC Ferries.

“We’re going to have another re-jig after this schedule goes into place,” Abram said. “I’m sure there will be lots of input from the public; then we’re going to have to go back to BC Ferries and say, ‘Now what are you going to do?’”

Citing feeback from customers and from the Quadra-Cortes Ferry Advisory Committee, BC Ferries will restore one early evening sailing and adjust several other schedules for the Quadra Island-Campbell River and Cortes Island-Quadra Island routes. The changes take effect Monday, Feb. 9.

The cornerstone of the new schedule is a shift in the last evening sailing from Campbell River with a Quadra-Cortes connector. That sailing will move from 5:45 p.m. to 6:15 p.m., the same time slot it held before that route was cut in April of 2014. The corresponding connector ferry from Quadra to Cortes Island will continue to depart at 6:45 p.m., except on weekends, where it shifts forward 20 minutes to 6:25 p.m.

Several other sailings will be adjusted by periods ranging from five to 20 minutes, while others are unchanged. The total number of sailings each way does not change.

“We’ll go back to a similar schedule to what we had, where we’ll have a lot of the ferries leaving on the half-hour from Campbell River and some leaving on the hour from Quadra Island,” said Abram. “But that was after they’d already cut one midday sailing, and cut the late-night ferry. And on weekends, even the new (schedule) doesn’t work. There are times when there’s no ferry and times when ferries don’t meet for shift workers.”

One other change that could impact late-night riders is a 10-minute shift forward in the final sailing each night. The Friday-Saturday run from Campbell River moves from 10:55 to 10:45 p.m., while the last run from Quadra Island moves from 10:25 to 10:15 p.m. All other nights, the final sailing is at 9:45 p.m. from Campbell River (previously 9:55) and at 9:15 p.m. from Quadra (previously 9:25).

BC Ferries said the pending schedule changes result from customer feedback and input from members of the Quadra-Cortes Ferry Advisory Committee throughout last summer and fall. The corporation admitted the change was made to address issues around sailing and wait times that were experienced with the schedules that went into effect last April, but Abrams said those issues were clear to local riders as soon as they were announced.

“They told us if it was found to not be workable, and we need to go to the old schedule and some revisions, it was no problem,” Abram said. “Within a month, we were adamant it wasn’t working, but they said, ‘We want to see how it plays out; we want to wait until after the summer season.’”

In a written release, BC Ferries stated it expects the upcoming changes will provide notable improvements for customers travelling to and from the two islands while still meeting the net cost savings targets established by the Province as part of its service level adjustment process earlier in 2014.

That government mandate, for a $185,000 cost savings on the two routes, resulted in the two route cuts.

The schedule pages for these two routes have now been updated on bcferries.com and specific sailing times can be viewed on the site’s schedules link.