Merritt Shuttle Bus Service has hit a roadblock in its hope to provide passenger service in the Cariboo.
Director of operations, Gene Field said Wednesday it is unclear if they will meet their Feb. 28 deadline by the Passenger Transportation Board to have at least two buses licensed and registered.
“I don’t know if they are going to give us another extension because it was kind of on contingency that we had an investor, and we talked to him,” Field said.
“But he wanted us to downsize which would have totally negated all of the routes that we applied for except for the copper mine which is fine and dandy. We can make money on that, but the problem is if you’re a small fish in a big pond then the big fish are going to come in and take over and you’re not going to have anything. But if you’re a medium sized fish in a big pond, you look a little more threatening and they’re not as likely to come in and take you over. ”
“So that’s why we’re as big as we are because we need to make sure we can compete with the big companies and provide a better service, and if not a more specialized service.”
Hoping the Provincial Government Would Help
Field said while the Passenger Transportation Board and Branch have been very accommodating and receptive to helping them out, it’s the provincial government that they have run into problems with.
“They knew months ahead of time that this was going to happen so it’s not like they were blindsided,” he said.
“Even when they [Greyhound] made the announcement, it was six months that they could have prepared and had some kind of fund ready for companies to come in being proactive over reactive, but I guess what they were thinking was these other companies would come in and they fix the problem for us.”
Field maintains if the government wants the routes filled, there should be incentives.
He said he will be meeting with ten municipalities from the Thompson Nicola Regional District before the end of the month to see if they will contribute $5,000 each.
“I know there are people saying well you should have had the money before, but we honestly thought the provincial government would help us out because they had said they would and we haven’t gotten any response at all so that’s when we had to turn to investors, and I really didn’t want to,” Field said.
“I thought there was going to be grants out there. We tried looking everywhere for grants and there was nothing that we could apply for.”
“If we don’t get another extension then we’re done.”
Cariboo Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett told MyCaribooNow that the private sector is needed to fill the routes.
“There are buses all over the province of British Columbia right now,” she said.
“There are private systems giving good service but nobody can take a look at the Cariboo as long as the government has got the license tied up, and this can’t be something that’s funded by the government.”