BC Ferries receives funding to avoid fare hikesWritten by Nick Blenkey
The British Columbia government is pumping CAD 500 million (about US$369 million) of new funding into BC Ferries. The aim is to lower fare increases for users of its coastal ferry service.
“Every day, people use BC Ferries to get to work, and visit family and friends, as well as plan vacations,” said B.C. Premier David Eby. “We know the cost of everything continues to go up due to global inflation, but by acting now, we can prevent double-digit fare increases from hitting people who depend on our ferries.”
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Through a recent submission to the BC Ferries commissioner and the impacts of global inflation over the past 18 months, it was clear BC Ferries users could face fare increases of 10.4% a year for the four-year period of 2024 to 2028, says an announcement from the premier’s office. With the CAD 500 million investment, the goal is to keep annual average fare increases below 3% a year. Final fare increases will be determined by the BC Ferries commissioner.
The increase in core costs like fuel, along with higher inflation are factors in driving up overall costs for BC Ferries, says the provincial government. The $500 million will also support greenhouse-gas-emission reduction through electrification of vessels and other initiatives. This will green the fleet and operations. Businesses will also benefit since small businesses rely on BC Ferries for the movement of goods through freight transport.
The BC Ferries commissioner is in the process of determining, by March 31, 2023, the preliminary annual fare increases (price cap) for the next four-year period starting April 1, 2024. The final annual fare increases for the next performance term will be published by September 30, 2023.
Keeping fares affordable
The premier’s announcement follows other actions the B.C. government has taken to improve service and keep fares affordable. In spring 2019, the province added 2,700 round trips. It also reduced fares by 15% on smaller and northern routes, froze fares on the major routes, and brought back free passenger travel for seniors, Monday through Thursday.
“This significant funding from the province supports necessary service enhancements and infrastructure investments while keeping fares affordable for the traveling public and our commercial customers, said BC Ferries interim president Jill Sharland. “We are thankful we have a government partner who understands the complexity of running one of the largest ferry systems in the world and is as committed as we are to providing safe and reliable service to the people and communities of B.C.’s west coast.”