A Merritt company hoping to offer a replacement for Greyhound through parts of B.C.’s Interior says it is still on track but is urging the public to write letters of support to B.C.’s minister of transportation.
Gene Field and his wife Tammy of Merritt Shuttle Bus Services Ltd. plan to offer routes from Lower Nicola to Kamloops, Kamloops to Highland Valley, Merritt to Highland Valley, Merritt to Spences Bridge to Langley, Merritt to Spences Bridge to Prince George, Merritt to Kelowna.
The Fields have received an extension for their licence from the Passenger Transportation Board (PTB) to have buses on the road by Jan. 7, 2019.
Field said they have been told because the routes are considered “profitable” they may not be eligible for federal funding, which is why he is asking the public to write the letters of support.
“The bids are supposed to be for bus companies where the routes are not profitable,” Field told the Tribune Thursday, which he said is interesting, considering Greyhound cancelled its services because it was losing money. “The government is giving people an incentive to do bus routes that are not profitable by funding it so that way the people living in those routes would be able to have bus service.”
Field hopes letters of support sent to Minister of Transportation Claire Trevena will result in his bid receiving funding.
“Even though we technically don’t qualify, they may realize that people living in the Interior, including in Aboriginal communities, need the service,” he said. “It’s not like I’m starting a coffee shop in a town where there are already five coffee shops. There is no bus service available.”
In the meantime, Field is pursuing finding money to purchase some buses.
“I have them lined up and can get all the buses that I need,” he said, noting his original budget of $750,000 has been reduced to $250,000.
“All I need to do is have two buses, licensed and insured and ready to go on Jan. 7, and we will get to keep our PTB licence.”
Existing investment rules are making things difficult, he added.
“They have to have a net worth of $250,000 or they have to be family or they have to be someone that is close to family and it has to be for five years and you have to make them a partner,” Field said. “We were hoping for two years because some people want to invest and then get in and get out.”
When asked if he feels like giving up, Field said: “Heck no.”
“We’ve put too much time, work and effort into to this. We will come up with a creative way to get money.”
He had hoped to be on the road by Dec. 1, but has had to postpone a few times.
“I would love to have some buses on the road by Dec. 15 so we could get some people around by Christmas.”