BC Ferries is poised to enter its next four-year performance term, beginning April 1, 2024, with a focus on improved capacity and reliability, buoyed by a $500-million investment from the Province to keep fare increases down.
“I know that this past summer has been frustrating for ferry users, and a challenge for BC Ferries given staffing and mechanical issues,” said Rob Fleming, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure. “By lowering fare increases with our $500-million investment, BC Ferries can remain focused on delivering the service people need, while growing and modernizing its fleet to improve reliability.”
The BC Ferries commissioner has confirmed fare increases of an average of 3.2% over each of the next four years. Without the provincial funding, fare increases would have been approximately 9.2% per year for the next four years.
The Province’s investment allows BC Ferries to remain on course with its capital plan, which includes investments in new ships, more staff, and terminal and technology upgrades.
“BC Ferries must invest in the technology and people necessary to ensure safe, reliable ferry service for the people of coastal B.C.,” Fleming said. “At a time of high interest rates, we made a prudent investment that allows BC Ferries to continue with its longer-term capital plans that will improve capacity and reliability, while keeping fare increases low.”
The Province has also renewed its service contract with BC Ferries for the next four-year term, Performance Term 6 (PT6), which covers April 1, 2024, until March 31, 2028.
The Coastal Ferry Services Contract is an agreement between the Province and BC Ferry Services Inc. to deliver ferry service and is renewed at the end of each four-year performance term. Government funding is provided to BC Ferries through the contract that defines routes and minimum service levels.
The new Coastal Ferry Services Contract specifies the annual addition of 1,433 round-trip sailings, previously designated as discretionary sailings, to core services on 13 minor routes. This will add capacity and improve service for smaller, ferry-dependent communities.
The Province is also working with BC Ferries to improve reliability by including penalty provisions for core-service sailings missed due to insufficient crew. Details of how penalties will be applied will be confirmed in the spring.
“People want to know their sailings will run as scheduled,” Fleming said. “While BC Ferries is working hard to secure additional staffing, the provision for penalties is an added measure to hold the company to account for the services it is contracted to provide.”
The $500 million provided to BC Ferries over the next four years was announced on Feb. 26, 2023. This is on top of the Province’s annual service fee to BC Ferries, which this fiscal year is just over $194 million. The $500 million will also allow BC Ferries to deliver greenhouse-gas emissions reduction through electrification of vessels and other initiatives to green the fleet and operations.