Wilson’s Transportation intends to operate daily bus service between Victoria and Nanaimo (File submitted)

Vancouver Island bus company plans Nanaimo-Victoria service

Wilson’s Transportation intends to take over route from Greyhound Canada

A Vancouver Island-based bus company has its sights set on the Nanaimo-Victoria route.

Wilson’s Transportation Ltd. has filed an application with the province’s Passenger Transportation Board to begin operating daily round-trip bus service between Victoria and Nanaimo in 2018.

The filing comes after Greyhound Canada announced earlier this year that it planned to discontinue service along five of its routes, including its Nanaimo-Victoria route.

The Passenger Transportation Board, an independent tribunal established in 2004 under the province’s Passenger Transportation Act, will need to approve both Greyhound and Wilson’s applications.

John Wilson, chief executive officer of Wilson’s, told the News Bulletin the application will be heading to the PTB for final approval soon, but doesn’t know when a decision will be made. He said while there are challenges with the Nanaimo-Victoria route, he believes Wilson’s can make it work.

“There are some challenges around scheduled bus transportation services across North America, with numbers dwindling, but we are a local company and we hope to be able to use our network of connections in the marketplace,” Wilson said.

Wilson’s Transportation was founded in 1962 and is based in Victoria. It provides charter bus service and operates Gray Line Sightseeing Victoria, Victoria Airport shuttle service and B.C. Ferries Connector services. Wilson said his company is the largest carrier on Vancouver Island at the moment, adding it is also part of Greyhound’s inter-line network and acts as a ticket agent and carrier for Greyhound in certain markets.

Wilson said his company had heard from people expressing concerns about Greyhound’s cancellation plans. He said Greyhound could oppose Wilson’s application to the PTB, but would be stunned if that were the case.

“I cannot imagine Greyhound opposing it,” he said.

Peter Hamel, Greyhound Canada’s regional vice-president for Western Canada, said his company is aware of Wilson’s application with the transportation board but doesn’t know specifics. He said Greyhound has no time frame for when it will discontinue service because the PTB has not made a decision.

“We fully respect the process. From the day we put in the application, the board had committed to a 90-day turnaround on this,” Hamel said. “But we knew it would be more than 90 days based on the scope of this application, so to see it go into the New Year for us is not a surprise.”

Hamel said Greyhound faces stiff competition on the Nanaimo-Victoria route, pointing to Island Link Bus, Tofino Bus and B.C. Transit. He also said that with the rising popularity of ride-sharing, the route isn’t economically viable for Greyhound anymore.

“We are running single digits on that Nanaimo-Victoria corridor,” Hamel said. “In 2013 we had 17 people on that bus, as of now, we are running an average of 9.6 people on that route.”

Greyhound recently finished public consultation in northern British Columbia regarding proposed cuts along Highway 16. For now, Greyhound continues to operate on all of the routes it hopes to cancel.

“It is business as usual,” Hamel said. “We are still going to maintain the freight on the Island, whether that is with us as the carrier or we find a third-party carrier to handle the freight, but as far as freight is considered, it is going to be seamless.”


nicholas.pescod@nanaimobulletin.com

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