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Ferries to modify schedule

Replacement vessel on Saltery Bay-Earls Cove route has been running late

BC Ferries is reworking sailing times on the Saltery Bay-Earls Cove route since the replacement ferry can’t meet the schedule.

The Queen of Chilliwack went on the route on September 12 and is slated to stay there until March 9, 2014. The Island Sky, the regular vessel on the route, has gone in for a refit, then it will replace the Queen of Burnaby on the Powell River-Comox route.

Darin Guenette, BC Ferries’ public affairs manager, said there are a number of issues with the Queen of Chilliwack, including increased vibrations. “Essentially, we’re not getting the same performance as we did when it was on there five years ago, even though it had a life-extension a couple of years ago,” he said.

The first day it was back on the route, the Queen of Chilliwack fell behind the schedule by 90 minutes. Since then, it has been about 30 to 40 minutes late by around noon. Because there is an afternoon gap, the schedule resets. “The delays have not been as bad as they were after the first five days,” said Guenette. “It actually has been somewhat better, but we’re not going to rely on this schedule. It’s not going to work for the six months that the vessel is on that route.”

BC Ferries is looking at the need to modify the schedule because it doesn’t think it’s going to be satisfactory, he added. “It doesn’t provide the reliability or near the reliability that the customers deserve.”

While BC Ferries doesn’t guarantee connections, it will be looking at connections with the Horseshoe Bay-Langdale route, Guenette said.

The company will be consulting with the Northern Sunshine Coast Ferry Advisory Committee about the modified schedule, Guenette also said. After the company finalizes a modified schedule, it has to seek approval from the provincial government, he explained. “What we want to do is get a modified schedule in place as soon as reasonable, but we’ve got to get these steps taken care of first,” he said.

While he doesn’t know how long those steps will take, BC Ferries is aware of the approaching Thanksgiving long weekend. “If we can get something into place before then so that people are used to it on that busy weekend, that will be ideal,” he said.