Vancouver Island-based Wilson’s Transportation has expanded to fill some of the routes left unserviced by Greyhound in 2018, but it and other inter-city bus companies have been severely affected by COVID-19 travel restrictions. (Black Press files)

Vancouver Island-based Wilson’s Transportation has expanded to fill some of the routes left unserviced by Greyhound in 2018, but it and other inter-city bus companies have been severely affected by COVID-19 travel restrictions. (Black Press files)

B.C. bus lines, regional airports to get $27M in COVID-19 aid

Operating grants ‘a life raft’ for connecting communities

B.C. inter-city bus services and regional airports are getting assistance to maintain or restart services with an injection of cash from the province’s COVID-19 business recovery fund.

Bus services and airports can begin applying for a $27 million fund to keep them going until travel restrictions are eased later this year, Transportation Minister Rob Fleming said March 9. Bus services have a fund of $10.7 million available to them, and regional airports can apply to a $16.5 million fund to cover operating costs.

“Today’s announcement is the life-raft our sector has been looking for,” said John Wilson, president of Wilson’s Transportation, the Victoria-based bus company that picked up some of the inter-city routes that were dropped by Greyhound in 2018.

Premier John Horgan said regional airports are critical for air ambulance and other links to remote communities, and like bus services, they continue to face costs to stay functional.

“These operators have seen a drastic decline in their revenues as people have been staying in place, but they’ve stayed in place themselves,” Horgan said.

Heather Bell, chair of the B.C. Aviation Council, said regional airports generate almost all of their revenue by user fees, and have been among the hardest hit industries due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. But they still need to meet regulations and maintain their runways, fire safety response and terminal services for medical and other essential travel.

Bell said airports need to be ready for this summer when travel restrictions are likely to be eased, because when travel is allowed, “it’s not going to come back as a flood, it’s going to come back as a tsunami.”

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