Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Still no bus to Kenora

There’s no way for local residents to take the bus from Fort Frances to Winnipeg right now because the connection from here to Kenora is on hiatus due to a lack of drivers.
Troy Marschalk of North Air Services said the bus to Nestor Falls/Sioux Narrows/Kenora stopped running Dec. 17 until further notice.

“We’ve been told it’s because [Caribou Coach] can’t get drivers in Kenora,” noted Marschalk.
Marschalk said North Air gets calls daily from people wanting to take the bus to Winnipeg.
“We’re getting phone calls; people swearing up and down that they are running,” he remarked.
“But we’ve got a memo that it’s until further notice.
“I actually called down to find out because people are calling, saying that they heard [the bus was running],” Marschalk added.
“But I called down there, and they’ve said they’ll definitely contact us when it’s back and running.”
Lori Smith, manager of business development for Caribou Coach, said the stoppage is due to “a combination of factors.”
“We’re having difficulty finding qualified drivers out of Kenora,” she explained.
“It’s not being used is the other problem,” she added. “We’re operating at a loss, which makes the service really, really difficult to maintain.
“So we’re exploring our options to see if we can streamline things and make it better, maybe set it up differently so we’re not using drivers out of Kenora,” Smith noted.
“Maybe use drivers out of Thunder Bay or Fort Frances.
“But until we can get that all in place, it’s on hiatus,” she stressed.
Smith said she realizes people would prefer an exact date, but simply can’t provide one at this point in time.
Caribou Coach took over the Kenora to Fort Frances/Red Lake bus route in September after Excel stopped providing the service.
But ridership has been very low. For example, for the entire month of October, only eight people took the bus to Red Lake, noted Smith.
“It’s just not paying the bills,” she stressed.
“By the time we pay our guys and the insurance and the fuel—we’re hemorrhaging money.”
Caribou Coach continues to run buses from here to Atikokan and Thunder Bay on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Sundays.

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