‘Absolutely horrifying:’ Greyhound pulls out of the Prairies

Greyhound Canada plans to end all passenger and freight services in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, a decision that will leave some rural residents in the lurch.

The company said on its website today the changes will take effect Oct. 31.

Stuart Kendrick, who spoke with the Canadian Press in an interview, said the decision affects two million customers and 415 people will be out of work.

Greyhound Canada has many depots on the Prairies that connect to major centres. Without those lines, options will be limited for rural residents who can’t drive or rely on other means to get them around.

“This is absolutely horrifying,” said Lynn Pye-Matheson, executive director with Grasslands Regional Family and Community Support Services, an organization that delivers preventive social programming in the Brooks, Alta., area.

She said she knows of many people who use Greyhound to get around.

“I’m extremely disappointed and concerned,” she said. “For residents in rural communities who are already struggling to get from point A to point B, decisions like this have the potential to impact them and communities socially and economically.”

Greyhound has already been scaling back services overtime on the Prairies. Kendrick said the routes in Western Canada aren’t sustainable anymore.

On its website, the company said reasons for ending services include declining ridership, which decreased by 41 percent since 2010; competition from subsidized services, low-cost airlines, and growth in car ownership.

Some rural advocates hope government or other companies step in to fill the void, but acknowledge that it’s costly to do so.

For instance, in Newell County, which has a rural bus, a study found that operating and expanding such services are costly and they must be heavily subsidized.

“These will never be money-making projects,” said Molly Douglas, the reeve of that county.

But the decision by Greyhound is only the latest blow to rural transportation.

In Saskatchewan, the province shut down the STC bus service last year, arguing it was costing too much to operate. That decision has still left many former riders upset because they say nothing has been able to adequately replace STC.

In Alberta, the government has launched two pilot projects, one connecting Camrose to Edmonton and the other connecting Grande Prairie to neighbouring communities. Other projects are being considered.

While Alberta’s bus projects are helpful, they are still limited when compared to what Greyhound offered, Lynn Pye-Matheson said.

“Those projects are a step in the right direction, but the loss of Greyhound is very, very detrimental to Alberta,” she said.

Greyhound will continue its operations in Ontario and Quebec. In B.C., only one route will remain, the line between Vancouver and Seattle.

Contact jeremy.simes@producer.com

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