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Greyhound drops passenger service

Paul Bickford
Northern News Services
Published Monday, August 15, 2011

Greyhound Canada has decided to eliminate its passenger bus service to the NWT.

NNSL photo/graphic

As of Oct. 24, Greyhound Canada passenger buses will be a thing of the past in Hay River. - NNSL file photo

The route to Hay River from Peace River, Alta. - the only Greyhound Canada service to the NWT - will end as of Oct. 24, a decision triggered by a revamping of regulatory changes by the Alberta government.

Over the past four decades, fewer people were riding the bus, said Tom Olsen, a spokesperson for Greyhound Canada.

"For several routes that Greyhound was running, it was just not economical for them to continue," he said. "They run 54-seat passenger buses. That's their business model. They were regularly running these buses with two, three, four, eight passengers aboard."

The change in service will affect all Alberta communities on the route between Peace River and Hay River.

There will be no change for the parcel and freight service offered to Hay River by Greyhound, however.

Laura Rose, president of the Hay River Soup Kitchen, is an occasional user of the Greyhound service, noting she might travel south once a year.

She also noted her children in Edmonton and Peace River ride the bus north.

"I certainly hope somebody can pick up the slack," Rose said.

It seems that not a lot of people take the Greyhound bus to Hay River, she noted. "So I can understand things from the company's point of view. But at the same time, for some people that's their only option."

Forced to hitchhike?

Without the bus, she said some travellers might even be forced to hitchhike. Currently, Greyhound has a bus arriving in Hay River every day except Sunday, and departing every day except Monday.

Colleen Gagnier, co-owner of Frontier Coachlines (NWT) Ltd. in Hay River, said she was surprised and disappointed by the Greyhound Canada decision.

She noted Greyhound runs three buses a day from Edmonton to Peace River and she had hoped the company could have reduced that route to one bus per day, which would have saved the northern route to the NWT.

"We're hoping to have another interliner enter the picture so we could link up with them," said Gagnier, who is also the Greyhound Canada agent in Hay River.

If that happens, she said Frontier Coachlines would be willing to go into Alberta to link up with any new service.

However, she said it is too early to say what may happen.

Frontier Coachlines will continue to operate its services out of Hay River, east to Fort Smith, and north to Fort Providence, Fort Simpson, Behchoko and Yellowknife.

Olsen explained that, under Alberta's previous regulations, Greyhound had some exclusivity on specific routes in exchange for offering minimum levels of service, but that recently changed.

He noted the Alberta government has stated it expects smaller regional carriers will fill the void where there are gaps in service.

In a news release announcing the regulatory changes, Alberta's Department of Transportation stated the changes provide more opportunities for new carriers to provide new services.

"This is about putting in place the tools necessary for a flexible and responsive bussing system for all Albertans," said Luke Ouellette, the province's minister of transportation.

"An open market for bus service supports free enterprise, removes barriers for service providers, fosters competition, and gives service providers the flexibility to respond to their customers' needs."

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