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Province launches BC Bus North to fill void left by Greyhound

The B.C. government is launching a long-haul bus service to fill the gap Greyhound will leave behind when it ends passenger service in northern B.C. Called BC Bus North it will begin on Monday. Greyhound's last passenger trip will be this Friday.
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The B.C. government is launching a long-haul bus service to fill the gap Greyhound will leave behind when it ends passenger service in northern B.C.

Called BC Bus North it will begin on Monday. Greyhound's last passenger trip will be this Friday.

It will provide two round-trips per week, between Prince Rupert and Prince George, Prince George and Valemount, and Prince George to Dawson Creek-Fort St. John. Additionally, it will offer one round-trip per week from Fort Nelson to Dawson Creek-Fort St. John.

One-way fares will be either $35 or $45 per route, depending on how far people are travelling.

Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Claire Trevena called the step an "exciting initiative for safe and affordable transportation in the north" but also cautioned the service will last for one year while something more permanent is developed.

"I've been talking a lot with community leaders over the last couple of months about the development of this and about possibilities and we're going to work dedicatedly with communities and with community groups to evaluate the demand for the service as well as develop long-term solutions for transportation across the north."

It will be operated by Pacific Western Transportation using four highway coaches, equipped with luggage and washroom facilities and large enough to hold 42 to 44 passengers, and they will be on the roads during daylight hours. In contrast, Greyhound trips were overnight and the charge was upwards of $150, Trevena noted. 

Seats must be booked by 2 p.m. the day before. That can be done online at bcbus.ca but you'll need to prepay using a credit card. If you don't have a credit card, call 1-844-564-7494.

Trips from Prince George to Prince Rupert will run on Thursdays and Saturdays with return trips on Fridays and Sundays (Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported return trips from Prince Rupert to Prince George would run Fridays and Saturdays). Prince George to Fort St. John will be on Monday and Tuesday with return trips on Wednesday and Thursday and the Prince George to Valemount run will be on Mondays and Fridays in the morning with return trips in the afternoon.

For the run to Prince Rupert, pick up points in Prince George will be at Seventh and Dominion, Pine Centre and Westgate and you must be there by 8 a.m., 8:05 a.m. and 8:10 a.m. respectively. Seventh and Dominion will be the only pickup point for the trips to Fort St. John and Valemount and the bus will be leaving at 8 a.m. and 7 a.m. respectively.

Those going as far as Smithers and Mackenzie will be charged $35, rising to $45 for those going beyond that point. The charge will be $35 for the entire distance to Valemount.

BC Transit's service along Highway 16, which charges $5 per trip, will remain on the road.

Cost of the BC Bus North service is set at $2 million for the year. There is no estimate on how much revenue will be generated but fares that are collected will go to offsetting the cost.

"Obviously, it isn't going to be the perfect solution for everyone and I think from all of this and the consultations we've had over the last few months is that one size certainly doesn't fit all but what it does, and our government is absolutely committed to this, is making sure people do have access to reliable ground transportation and we will work over the next year to find a solution that works for people and communities throughout the north," Trevena said.

In February, the Passenger Transportation Board granted Greyhound Canada's request to end passenger service in northern B.C. as well as between Victoria and Nanaimo.

The carrier had seen a 51-per-cent decline in ridership on those routes and suffered a $12.9-million loss on its passenger operations in B.C. during the 2016-17 fiscal year, according to submissions from the company.