A new Maritime bus service has been given the green light by the New Brunswick Energy and Utilities Board to begin operating next month.
The EUB has approved "in principle" the routes, schedules and fares applied for by Coach Atlantic Transportation Group Inc. in New Brunswick, a decision released Thursday states.
"The purpose of this advisory note from the board is to permit the applicant to proceed with the work necessary to ensure its New Brunswick line run operation will be operational as of Dec. 1, 2012."
A more detailed decision is expected to be released soon.
Coach Atlantic had received approval from the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board earlier this month and it already offers services between Charlottetown and Summerside.
The new Maritime service, which will be called the Tri-Maritime Bus Network, is expected to offer passenger and parcel service within New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.
Opposed by Acadian Lines union
Coach Atlantic had already been granted a licence to replace the existing inter-city Maritime service, Acadian Lines, which is folding its operations at the end of November.
But the EUB, which regulates carrier services in the province, held a public hearing in Saint John on Wednesday to go over the proposed routes, schedules and fares.
Coach Atlantic president Mike Cassidy told the board he hoped to replace the current Acadian Lines service, but drop some routes and bring busing to other parts of the province in the future.
"Those void areas are Saint John into St. Stephen, the road between Fredericton and Miramichi, and of course in what we call northern New Brunswick, where we have Bathurst, Dalhousie and Campbellton," Cassidy said.
Acadian has said it lost millions of dollars providing service in the Maritimes and can't make a profit in the region.
Cassidy said he has a different business model, which includes a plan for minimum and maximum number of runs during the week, as well as fuel surcharges.
Call for public inquiry
Glen Carr, the president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1229, which represents Acadian Lines employees, contends the approval process was flawed and wants a public inquiry.
"My main concern is the way the Energy and Utilities Board had kept denying Acadian any changes they wanted," Carr told CBC News. "They denied David Anderson from Advanced Shuttle Services in P.E.I."
Carr had opposed Coast Atlantic's application during the EUB hearing.
He said some of the same routes Coach Atlantic wanted to drop were the same ones Acadian Lines had been asking to cut for years.
"And a new company comes in and all of a sudden everything's great. Let's just change all the rules and regulations and give it to another outside private company. Does it make sense?"
Carr had argued if the EUB had been more flexible in allowing Acadian to cut service on less profitable routes, the company may have made more money and 100 employees might not have been out of work.