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Terminal upgrades on hold

by Kyle Wells reporter@prpeak.
Terminal upgrades on hold

by Kyle Wells At a meeting of the Northern Sunshine Coast Ferry Advisory Committee, Wednesday, October 19, officials from BC Ferries confirmed work on the Westview and Little River ferry terminals is scheduled for fiscal year 2013-2014. The improvements will include trestle replacements, an expansion to two-lane ramps and other upgrades.

BC Ferries officials said nothing has been decided but they are looking at options on how to organize terminal closures. Ferries will potentially have to temporarily run from Westview to Buckley Bay and Little River to Saltery Bay during the terminal’s respective upgrades. More definite plans for terminal closures will be ready for discussion in late 2012.

Last sailing

Officials commented on a recent letter from Powell River resident Ann Parker, who missed the last ferry from Earls Cove to Saltery Bay after her ferry to Langdale was late unloading. Officials noted that there is a procedure in place for the last ferry of the day from Earls Cove to wait if the connecting ferry is late. The particular circumstances of Parker’s situation prevented this, but ideas were discussed about asking people for final destinations when purchasing tickets so the chief steward knows how many on board are making the connection.

Elevator problems

The elevator aboard the Island Sky, which runs from Earls Cove to Saltery Bay, is expected to be down until January. An engineering room and a portable washroom have been made available to passengers who cannot climb the stairs.

Two-way fares

Rob Clarke, BC Ferries executive vice-president and chief financial officer, said in the meeting that there is a suspected “revenue leakage” on the Saltery Bay to Earls Cove route with commercial vehicles taking the ferry one way and then barging back the other to avoid paying the fare. Clarke said that passengers could soon be having to pay when travelling in either direction.

Vessel replacement

The contract to replace the Queen of Burnaby and its sister ship, the Queen of Nanaimo, with new vessels will go out within the next 12 to 15 months and the ships should be ready by April 2016. The ships will be replaced with similar sized vessels and preliminary numbers suggest the ships will cost somewhere around $125 million each. Clarke said the intention is to put the new vessel on the Powell River to Comox route, but that is not guaranteed.

Experience discount

Questions were raised over the level of discount with the BC Ferries Experience Card on the Powell River to Comox route, which is lower than on many other routes. Clarke said that routes must be revenue neutral and that if the discount is increased then the money has to be made up somewhere, either by raising base fares or lowering discounts on other routes within the minor route group. Clarke said he is not willing to pursue making discounts equal but if the ferry advisory committees were able to agree on a plan they could bring it to him.

Angry customers

Jeff West, regional director of terminal operations north, said crew members at Westview terminal are still dealing with irate customers who are upset over the late Queen of Chilliwack departures and a loading procedure where it’s often necessary to put vehicles on the ferry before others that may have arrived at the terminal first. West said that dealing with these customers, who he recognizes are the minority, often slows down loading. West asked that complaints be submitted to either him or terminal manager Sarah Dunbar and not to terminal staff while working.