Greyhound Canada wants to significantly reduce its service along the so-called Highway of Tears as part of a package of proposals to stop the company's financial bleeding.
Saying it lost an unsustainable $14.1 million on its scheduled passenger operations in B.C. during this past fiscal year, Greyhound is seeking permission from the provincial government's Passenger Transportation Board to cut service along 15 routes around the province.
And among those requests is to cut the number of trips between Prince George and Prince Rupert along Highway 16 East to 14 per week from the current 22 by eliminating two overnight trips per day, one each way.
Greyhound also wants to reduce service between Prince George and Fort St. James to one trip per week from the current six.
Several women have gone missing or have been found murdered along the route and there is concern that a drop in service will prompt more to turn to hitchhiking and expose themselves to the dangers the practice can bring.
"We're worried about the women, we don't want them to have to resort to other forms of transportation," said Wendy Kellas, a spokesperson for the Carrier Sekani Family Services' Highway of Tears Initiative.
The Passenger Transportation Board is accepting public comment until Oct. 17 and Carrier Sekani plans to make a submission, Kellas said.
Greyhound senior vice president Stuart Kendrick said there is no intention to abandon the route, just to have some flexibility to meet market demands.
"We're very aware of the concerns on the Highway of Tears and we're still operating there," Kendrick said, noting there are some discussions taking place between B.C. Transit and communities along the highway to provide a shuttle service.
According to a submission to the Passenger Transportation Board, Greyhound said the average passenger load is just 10.48 and 11.07 and revenue per passenger mile is $2.31 and $2.25 on the two trips it wants to eliminate between Prince George and Prince Rupert.
Break even is $5.69 per passenger mile, which usually requires 35 passengers per trip, Kendrick said.
Northern Health's bus service for patients who need transportation to medical appointments came under fire in Greyhound's submission to the transportation agency as the company claimed the provider takes no steps to ensure users are only passengers with a doctor's referral.
But a Northern Health spokesperson said that is not the case and Kendrick backed away from the assertion somewhat on Tuesday, saying Greyhound had different information when it looked at the service about a year ago.
Greyhound also wants to cut service between Dawson Creek and Prince George to 14 trips per week from 24. Similarly, the company is seeking to lower the number to 14 per week from 28 for a route along Highway 16 West from the Alberta border to Valemount and then south along Highway 5 to Merritt before continuing on to the Lower Mainland.
And Greyhound wants to eliminate entirely a service between Victoria and Mount Washington on Vancouver Island.
If all the proposals are accepted, Greyhound said it will save about $6.75 million per year and will continue to operate 6.7 million miles of scheduled service.