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B.C. Ferries cuts fuel surcharge

Nov 29 2012

Cheaper fuel costs will soon mean a small break on ticket prices for B.C. Ferries riders, but it won't be enough to offset looming fare hikes.

The ferry corporation said Wednesday it will eliminate a two per cent fuel surcharge on all routes by Friday.

The savings, though modest, amount to $3.75 on the $187.70 round-trip fare between Swartz Bay and Tsawwassen for two adults, two children and a vehicle.

"The recent decrease in the cost of fuel allows us to eliminate the fuel surcharges, which is great news for holiday travellers," said Mike Corrigan, B.C.

Ferries' president and CEO, in a statement.

"We are pleased to be able to reduce the cost of ferry travel for our customers, as every bit helps."

Fuel surcharge changes aren't permanent, and the ferry corporation did not say Wednesday how long it believes the reduction could last. A five per cent fuel surcharge on all routes was cut to two per cent in July.

The savings will be dwarfed by a 4.1 per cent fare increase starting April 1. That increase, along with 4.0 per cent in April 2014 and 3.9 per cent in 2015, was approved by the province's independent ferry commissioner this year.

A drop in the fuel surcharge doesn't have the same effect on riders as a cut to the regular rates, said Tony Law, co-chairman of the Ferry Advisory Committee Chairs, which represents ferry-dependent coastal communities.

"Obviously, when the fuel surcharge comes off, that feels good, but it's not long before another fuel surcharge is added," Law said.

"We tend not to give it a lot of attention because it ebbs and flows."

The move comes as B.C. Ferries tries to find $26 million in cuts to underused ferry routes by 2016.

The quasi-private corporation, which receives a multimillion-dollar taxpayer contribution, has faced steep financial losses and near-historic ridership declines.

The B.C. government has said it will increase its subsidy by $80 million over the next four years, but it's not enough to prevent the 12 per cent fare hike during the same period.

Critics have said the cost of ferry ridership has hit a tipping point, with fare increases of 156 per cent on some routes in the past 20 years.

The government is in the middle of a 38-meeting tour through coastal communities to gather input on how to save money by reducing or restructuring service.

Law said he has heard a great deal of frustration with that process, because the government isn't asking the right questions.

A final report on the consultation and service cuts is expected in February.

MEETING DATES

Provincewide consultations on the ferry system are scheduled to run until Dec. 8. For more information, including locations and times, go to coastalferriesengagement.ca.

Small group meetings

? Dec. 4 - Comox (Courtenay)

? Dec. 5 - Victoria

Public open houses

? Dec. 3 - Mayne Island

? Dec. 4 - Saturna Island and Comox

? Dec. 5 - Victoria

? Dec. 8 - Hornby and Denman islands

rshaw@timescolonist.com

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