A longtime Denman Island resident says a winter ferry schedule has deprived the community of critical night runs which is stranding some people at the Buckley Bay parking lot.
The last ferry from Buckley to Denman is 9:30 p.m. Summer sailings include runs at 10 p.m. and 11 p.m.
“We’re looking at an hour-and-a-half difference,” said Vali Majd, a Denman business owner, parent and deputy fire chief. “That’s what’s going to break BC Ferries budget? They’re supposedly running this (cable) ferry that’s a lot cheaper to operate. That schedule had been in place for some 40 years.”
Majd said many residents work in town or on the mainland, while students attend Comox Valley schools — and can’t stay for evening activities due to the limited schedule. He notes the Denman school population has increased from about 30 to 120 students in 15 years.
“Everything is going in the wrong direction,” he said. “There’s more population on the island, there’s more students, there’s younger people, there’s businesses, there’s more families, and yet we’re seeing more cutbacks…They have robbed us of something that’s valuable and indispensable to the community.”
Majd has appealed in writing to Transportation Minister Rob Fleming and Mid Island-Pacific Rim MLA Josie Osborne to reinstate the full schedule, year-round.
In 2013, BC Ferries said the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure sought public feedback about a service reduction plan for sailings and routes that have incurred one or all of the following: significant annual shortfalls, low annual utilization and low round-trip utilization. At the time, late night sailings between Buckley and Denman were under-utilized and required crew to work overtime to deliver. They were included in the service reduction plan.
“BC Ferries does provide late night sailings in the peak summer season due to strong passenger demand,” a statement said.
The issue was discussed last week at the Denman/Hornby Ferry Advisory Committee meeting and community drop-in session. The FAC will be proposing schedule modifications for BC Ferries’ consideration.
The corporation meets with FACs throughout the island to discuss day-to-day operations, planned improvements, fares, service changes and new projects. Meetings are held in the spring and fall.