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Bus company suspends service once again

Public raises concerns over communication and reliability
Chris Bolster

Malaspina Coach Lines has again suspended service until further notice.

The current service stoppage is the second time since earlier this summer that bus service has been interrupted. On June 20, bailiffs seized the company’s bus fleet and the service was suspended for more than two weeks.

“It’s a big enough issue that either we have to address it as a city and come up with some sort of solution, or have a meeting with Malaspina and ask what can we do to help,” said City of Powell River Councillor Maggie Hathaway.

Hathaway and Mayor Dave Formosa have had a number of recent conversations with Malaspina Coach Lines owner Ali Ismail and they were told everything was fine, she said.

Although the company has provided excellent service for years, the community needs to have a reliable service to Vancouver, said Hathaway.

Many seniors who live in Powell River depend on the bus to get to Vancouver for doctors appointments and other business, but do not have the income to fly.

Hathaway suggested that if Malaspina Coach Lines’ service is not continued, then it would be important to look for a solution to the problem and have the city enter into discussions with the Sunshine Coast and Powell River regional districts.

On June 26, Ismail sent the Peak an email to apologize to the public for the interruption at the time, announcing that bus service would be reinstated and explaining that the situation stemmed from problems with the Mercedes Benz Sprinter buses the company was using.

Ismail said Malaspina Coach Lines was involved in a class-action lawsuit against the vehicle manufacturer over faulty air conditioning systems in the buses. Service resumed on June 29 with public reports of sporadic interruptions through the rest of the summer.

Service on the bus lines was again interrupted the weekend of September 11 to 13 and the company’s Powell River office was closed the following week.

Information about the bus status was difficult to find, but a notice on a tabbed page of the company’s website confirmed an interruption in service.

Confused, many of the bus line’s customers visited the Malaspina’s Facebook page looking for answers.

Customers that had paid for parcels to be delivered were left without answers about the status of their packages. Powell River resident Marlies Robitaille, who sent her son a new pair of jeans, contacted the Peak after she was unable to speak with anyone at the Powell River depot about the location of her package.

“This is absolutely not dependable,” said Robitaille. Eventually her son got the package, but it took a week longer than originally promised.

Powell River resident Martin Giles said without the bus services, travel options to Vancouver are very limited. He added that if the bus service is brought back it should include a reservation system to improve reliability.

“We now have no option other than to fly,” said Giles, “and that can be pretty expensive and inconvenient at such late notice.” 

Ismail did not respond to calls and emails by press time, but an unnamed representative on the company’s Facebook page confirmed that the bus service had again been temporarily suspended after “a corporate assault,” though the individual was unable to explain the matter further.

The company representative said bus service would be reinstated and the interruption was only temporary.

According to Leanne Walsh, her husband, a Malaspina Coach Lines driver, has received a layoff notice from the company.