The wrangling over the ferry schedule on the Langdale-Horseshoe Bay route continues, as local governments on the Sunshine Coast anticipate more tourist travel after the announcement that the province is moving into Phase 3 of its restart plan.
The Southern Sunshine Coast Ferry Advisory Committee (FAC), working with its counterparts on the Northern Sunshine Coast and Gambier/Keats FACs and local governments, has already secured schedule changes and additional sailings on the Langdale route after complaints and ongoing sailing delays.
Now, the District of Sechelt is firing off a letter to BC Ferries asking for a return to last year’s summer service level on Route 3.
Coun. Matt McLean, Sechelt’s representative on the FAC, told the June 24 council meeting that BC Ferries has committed to further refining the schedule to allow for more turnaround time between sailings in an effort to alleviate chronic delays.
In a service notice posted June 26, BC Ferries said it would also be making a few other changes to “safely adjust our operating tempo,” including giving the Queen of Surrey priority for arrivals and departures at the Horseshoe Bay terminal and reopening the overhead foot passenger walkway to allow for faster unloading at the Horseshoe Bay side.
But what’s needed, McLean said at the June 24 meeting, is more sailings.
“On-time performance over the last month was 38 per cent,” McLean said. “Last year in June, it was 72 per cent.”
McLean also told council that “every week traffic is increasing” to the point where it’s now only about 25 per cent lower than June 2019, while the latest version of the schedule for the first week of July has 106 sailings compared to 145 for the same period in 2019.
“We're getting significantly less sailings than we did last year, while traffic is rising,” McLean said. “I believe that we need to ask BC Ferries for immediate resumption of their 2019 schedule that will include more sailings during peak times [and] more time in between each sailing.”
Mayor Darnelda Siegers backed McLean’s idea and said overall BC Ferries has, so far, been “pretty responsive” to the concerns of the Sunshine Coast. Council voted unanimously to draft a letter requesting that BC Ferries “reinstate the summer 2019 schedule for the Sunshine Coast.”
Gibsons council also got an update on the ferry situation at its June 24 meeting, where Coun. David Croal, the Gibsons council representative on the FAC, noted that “it seems when all levels of government on the Coast get together and work together, BC Ferries listens.”
“As demand increases and they can see that the volume overall is increasing, they will respond with increases to service. It won’t be at the snap of your fingers because it’s like a dinosaur trying to do a U-turn.”
Although there was no discussion about signing on to the letter from Sechelt, Mayor Bill Beamish said, “I hope we get back to the 2019 schedule for the summer, because we are going to be busy and we are going to need all the ferries we can get.”
Sunshine Coast Regional District chair and FAC member Lori Pratt said she welcomed Sechelt council’s decision to send the letter and said the FAC will be holding another conference call with BC Ferries on June 29.
“The uptick on our route was a lot higher than what BC Ferries was expecting… They’ve promised to be more responsive about sailings and continue to adjust the schedule as needed,” Pratt said. “They’re being very proactive now, which is great, instead of the reactive stance that we’ve had in the past couple of weeks.”