After a two-summer trial in 2016 and 2017, BC Ferries has confirmed that the extra weekend sailings at 1.50pm from Gabriola and 2.25pm from Nanaimo will be back next summer and each summer thereafter.
Following a request from the Ferry Advisory Committee in 2015, the ferry corporation agreed to a two-year trial to overcome some of the overloading that was occurring at peak summer weekends. BC Ferries has indicated that as these sailings are above the minimum service levels outlined in the Coastal Ferry Services Contract, the corporation retains the flexibility to review if traffic or financial conditions change in the future. “Of course, if any reductions were to be considered, BC Ferries would first consult the FAC” said Darin Guenette, BC Ferries’ Public Affairs Manager.
While welcoming this decision, the FAC has already submitted a “Significant Service Request” (SSR) to BC Ferries asking for the extra weekend sailings to be provided year-round, and not just for the 11 weeks of peak summer. That request was officially received by BC Ferries on September 15.
FAC Co-Chair John Hodgkins hopes that BC Ferries will look favourably on the request, pointing out that the past two years has seen traffic grow by more than 8% on the Gabriola route and outside July and August, the mid-afternoon service gap has created overloads on successive weekend ferries from Easter right through to Thanksgiving. “We have asked BCF to consider year-round operation” he said, “but if that turns out not to be economic, we have asked them to consider extending the period of operation from Easter to Thanksgiving in future years.”
BC Ferries expects to make a decision on the FAC request no later than December 15.