BC Ferries says it will look into adjusting sailing times between Campbell River and Quadra Island following service cuts that have sparked a backlash from ferry users.
Corrine Storey, vice-president of customer service at BC Ferries, told the Mirror that the corporation admits some tweaks to the schedule may be necessary.
“Any change to ferry service takes some time to get used to, however on several routes, including the Campbell River/Quadra Island/Cortes Island routes, mid-day congestion issues have arisen,” Storey said.
For Jim Abram, regional district director for Quadra Island, it’s a classic case of ‘I told you so.’
Abram, and the Ferry Advisory Committee, which represents users of the Campbell River/Quadra/Cortes run, earlier this year told BC Ferries several times that the service is heavily used and any cuts to service would be hard on islanders who rely on the ferry. But the decision had already been made last December to cut runs and in April the 6:15 p.m. sailing leaving Campbell River and the 5:50 p.m. sailing from Quadra Island were eliminated.
Abram said there have been problems ever since and all summer long the Ferry Advisory Committee has been lobbying for changes.
“We were forced to accept the schedule and then when we told them it wasn’t working, we wanted them to stick to their word,” Abram said. “Their word was if the schedule didn’t work they would be more than happy to look at it and change it.”
Abram said there is congestion at the ferry terminals like never before because people are having to take earlier sailings than they did in the past or they’re missing the ferry and there aren’t as many later sailings to pick up the slack.
Now with the 6:15 p.m. sailing leaving Campbell River gone, if a commuter were to miss the 5:45 p.m ferry – which is also the last connecting sailing to Cortes – they wouldn’t be able to get on a ferry to Quadra until 7 p.m.
“There’s continuous overloads so people are having to wait an hour to an hour and a half to get home from work,” Abram said. “We put up with a whole summer of summer traffic. It was ridiculously overloaded because of the new schedule.”
Now Abram wants BC Ferries to step up to the plate.
“They told us straight up that they wouldn’t look at it until after the fall,” Abram said. “They wanted to see how it plays out. We told them it’s already played out and it has not played out very well.”
Storey said BC Ferries spoke with the Ferry Advisory Committee over the summer and heard suggestions from other customers about refinements Ferries could make to the schedules.
“We will continue to work with the FAC (Ferry Advisory Committee) this fall to get a sense of community preference about possible schedule tweaks that can be made to meet the needs of the majority of ferry users while still achieving the net savings set out by the provincial government,” Storey said.
BC Ferries has been mandated by the province to come up with $185,000 in annual savings on the Campbell River/Quadra Island route.
Ferries consulted over six weeks this past spring with the Ferry Advisory Committee on how to reduce service and come up with those savings.
“The schedules proposed by the provincial government were refined on all of the affected routes to try to introduce the best timetables that still met the service reductions outlined by the province,” Storey said.
Abram said the new schedule is all over the place and sailing times are difficult to figure out.
“We have four different schedules we have to be aware of. It’s really, really complicated,” Abram said. “There isn’t a person on this island or a crew member that has gotten used to the new schedule yet. There are people showing up to work late and people showing up for work early which is nothing but a waste of people’s time.
“It has really been a hardship on people,” Abram added. “People are missing ferries, people are missing appointments, people are missing events.”
Storey said she appreciates the important role ferries play and BC Ferries will consider possible schedule tweaks later this fall.
“We certainly understand the vital role we play in maintaining the quality of life for people who live, work and travel in and around coastal British Columbia,” Storey said. “We are continuing to look at ways to address congestion concerns within the scheduled number of sailings.”