3rd private bus company approved to fill STC's shoes
Owner plans to operate between Regina, Saskatoon and Prince Albert
Growing up on Turkey's Black Sea coast, in the city of Trabzon, Hasan Topal's father ran a transportation business. From a young age, he was immersed.
Now he will take up his father's mantle, as his new Regina-based business Forward Coach Lines becomes the third in the province to be approved by the Highway Traffic Board for passenger transport following the STC shutdown.
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When Saskatchewan's publicly-owned bus company STC shut down at the end of May, it left a gap in service that people like Topal are trying to fill.
His business's approval is the third of its kind since the STC closure. Melville-based DiCal Transport and Regina-based Rider Express Transportation were granted approvals on June 29 and 30, respectively.
However, Topal said his business plans began before the province announced the closure.
"I saw how inefficient the business they were running [was]," he said, adding that he studied economics in university.
Now that his business has been approved, he said he hopes to start service within the next month.
He currently has one 15-passenger van and plans to get two more vehicles, he said. With them, he plans to offer service between Regina, Saskatoon and Prince Albert.
Topal plans to run two departures daily from both cities on the Regina to Saskatoon route, he said. He predicts tickets for that route will cost $30-$40, either direction.
"It's more than rational to operate under $50 [per ride]," he said.
The Saskatoon to Prince Albert route would cost $20-$30, he said. Regina to Prince Albert passengers would need to connect in Saskatoon.
Pick-up points are planned at a number of coffee shops in each city, he said.
There will be next to no stops along the route, so as not to exhaust passengers by stopping in every town along the way, he said.
Like father, like son
Growing up watching his father operate a transportation business gives him an edge when it comes to understanding how to be competitive, he said.
"I was always hearing discussions about the business at home or wherever my father would be with his friends," he said.
"I know all the moves that can be done," he added.
His father taught him two important lessons about transportation, he said. First, the vehicles must be reliable. Second, owners need set themselves apart in terms of service.
As such, he is going to offer some perks.
"I am going to get one of those coffee jugs, along with the cups, from Tim Hortons," he said. "I'll serve the coffee to the customers in the car."
He also plans to provide Wi-Fi.