Thursday, October 18, 2012
Daily Gleaner: N.B., N.S. expect no disruption in interprovincial bus service
By STEPHEN LLEWELLYN
18 Oct 2012 08:07AM
This article appeared in the Daily Gleaner on-line at www.canadaeast.com
The transportation ministers of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia said Wednesday they expect no disruption in interprovincial bus service this fall when Acadian Coach Lines shuts down operations at the end of November and a new company takes over.
“The decision has not been finalized, but a decision in principle has been determined,” said Nova Scotia Transportation Minister Maurice Smith.
He spoke after a meeting of the Council of Ministers and Deputy Ministers of Transportation, which includes Canada’s federal and provincial transportation ministers, in Fredericton.
“There’s just some fine tuning about some fares and routes before the licence is issued,” said Smith.
“We’re very positive about it concluding in a positive way so that come Nov. 30, when Acadian goes, the new services will be up and running so it will be a smooth transition.”
Prince Edward Island-based Trius Tours has applied to regulators in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia to provide interprovincial bus services.
Smith said the hearings into the Trius application finished Friday, and New Brunswick Transportation Minister Claude Williams said similar hearings finished in this province a few weeks ago.
The New Brunswick Energy and Utilities Board granted Trius a licence to operate in the province earlier this month. But the company’s routes and rates in New Brunswick have to be finalized at a hearing at the end of the month.
“We’ve been talking about this for a long time,” said Smith.
“When we heard the news that Acadian was going to go away, we had to come up with another solution.”
Williams said New Brunswick did not loosen any regulations or requirements or make any government investment so that Trius could make a profit on interprovincial bus lines where Acadian claimed it could not.
“The process has not been changed,” he said.
“We were ready to do whatever we could in order to see a transition.
“But there is no investment on the government part.”
Williams said interprovincial bus services is important for the region.
“We’re happy that Trius went through the process and things are moving along well,” he said.
“There doesn’t seem to be any obstacle at this point in time.
“As my colleague said, come Nov. 30 we want to see the service not being disrupted.”
But Smith said the whole issue of what level of service Trius has to provide and what rates it can charge is under review in Nova Scotia.
“When Acadian went away, they said it was because they had no flexibility in terms of adjusting rates and that sort of thing,” he said.
“So we’re looking at that. We will consider what we have to do in order to make the system work.
“In a general way I can say that is certainly on the table for us.”
Smith said Nova Scotia’s bus regulations are different than those in New Brunswick.
Smith also said he is not concerned that Acadian might sue if the province loosens regulations for Trius.
“It’s a new game now,” he said.
“They’re gone. They’ve chosen to leave and that’s their choice and that’s business.”
Trius has suggested some less-busy routes might be served by smaller 15-passenger vans.
But Isabelle Hains, whose son Daniel died in the horrific January 2008 van crash in Bathurst, said such vans should be used only for carrying cargo, not people.
“It’s unacceptable,” she said Wednesday.
“There are other vehicles out there that are made to a higher standard.”
Williams said he did not have all the details on whether Trius would use the controversial 15-passenger vans in it service in New Brunswick.
“The government is looking at … all of the regulatory process,” he said.
“We are not going to deviate from the requirements that are in place.”
He would not say if that review would be done by Dec. 1.
Smith said he has no concerns about Trius using 15-passenger vans.
“We use them for transportation purposes (in Nova Scotia),” he said.
“That was one of the things we discussed today.”
“The federal government has done a number of tests on these vans, and they are perfectly safe to be operated.”
Nova Scotia does not allow such vans to be used to transport schoolchildren, said Smith.