Nova Scotia

Provinces chip in to keep rural Maritime Bus routes in service

The Maritime provinces have allocated a combined $900K to Maritime Bus to help cover some of the millions of dollars in losses incurred over the last 2 years.

N.S., N.B. to allocate $400K each, P.E.I. contributing $90K

Maritime Bus driver Gelasius Curran sits in the driver's seat of an electric motorcoach in P.E.I. (Nicole Williams/CBC)

After two years of substantial losses, an interprovincial bus service that connects rural parts of the Maritimes will be able to continue running its rural and northern routes thanks to new funding, the owner of the private service operator says.

Mike Cassidy, who owns Maritime Bus, said his company provides an essential service, and the combined $900,000 from the governments of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and P.E.I. shows him the provinces agree.

"It's nice to feel needed and it's nice to feel wanted," Cassidy said, adding that the COVID-19 pandemic has been "very difficult" on passenger service companies like his.

The funding will help the company cover some of the millions of dollars in losses incurred over the last two years and prepare for a rebound in tourism, the provinces said in news releases Tuesday.

Cassidy said the absence of multi-day trip bookings from cruise ship passengers during the pandemic has been especially crippling.

"That's over half of our business and that was gone for the last two years," said Cassidy, who also owns Coach Atlantic Group, the parent company of Maritime Bus.

"Next week will be the first cruise ship arrival, and it is looking good at this point."

Cassidy said he's hopeful that revenues during this year's tourist season could be 90 per cent of what they were in 2019.

Maritime Bus, which also offers parcel shipping and transports blood products to hospitals, received federal and provincial funding last year to keep some routes running in New Brunswick.

Provincial breakdown

Nova Scotia and New Brunswick will each contribute $400,000 to the company while Prince Edward Island is providing $90,000. The release from Nova Scotia said the provinces' contributions are proportional to the ratio of kilometres driven by the service in each province.

"Maritime Bus provides a service that's vital to linking our communities and our province, and links our province to our Maritime neighbours," Kim Masland, Nova Scotia's minister of public works, told reporters Tuesday.

Electric, clean diesel buses

Cassidy said plans to add clean diesel and electric vehicles to his fleet are underway. He said the company will soon be ordering electric buses for its municipal operations on P.E.I., but those vehicles aren't suitable for interprovincial travel.

"There's not quite the range in a big motor coach from the battery pack," Cassidy said. "And also [with] the room that these batteries take up, you lose most of all your storage compartment underneath the bus."

He said Maritime Bus will continue to monitor the evolving technology because he'd like to have one of the first fully electric motor coaches when it's feasible.

In the meantime, he said, the company's aim over the next year is to explore decreasing its reliance on diesel from fossil fuels by switching to diesel derived from biomass.

with files from Jean Laroche

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