Thunder Bay bus company adding western routes to fill void left by Greyhound cancellations

A Thunder Bay transportation company is stepping in to fill some of the void left by Greyhound, launching a number of new passenger bus routes in Manitoba this fall.

Kasper Transportation steps in after Greyhound cancels routes in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta

Kasper Wabinski, the owner of Kasper Transportation, says the company will be expanding west this fall. It will fill some of the void left by Greyhound, which announced this week it was halting most of its western operations. (Jeff Walters/CBC)

A Thunder Bay transportation company is stepping in to fill some of the void left by Greyhound, launching a number of new passenger bus routes in Manitoba this fall.

Kasper Transportation says it will add five new routes in Manitoba and Saskatchewan in October.

The announcement came shortly after Greyhound said it will be ending all its passenger and cargo bus services in Manitoba, Alberta, and Saskatchewan, and shutting down all but one British Columbia route, at the end of October, saying they're no longer sustainable.

"We already have the licences, we already have the vehicles for it," Kasper Transportation CEO Kasper Wabinski said Tuesday. "So we are probably have a year to eight months ahead from anybody else right now from being able to step in and fill the void."

Kasper currently operates in Ontario and Manitoba. Current routes include Thunder Bay to Fort Frances, Thunder Bay to Longlac, and Thunder Bay to Sioux Lookout.

The company also offers transportation between Sioux Lookout and Winnipeg, Sioux Lookout and Red Lake, and Winnipeg and Selkirk.

Come October, however, the company will start offering a direct Thunder Bay-Winnipeg trip, as well as a new Winnipeg-Regina-Saskatoon-Prince Albert route.

Also coming are routes between Winnipeg and Thompson, and Thunder Bay and White River. Kasper is also working on creating more routes, which would reach northern Manitoba communities.

The new routes were announced by the company in a Monday post on Facebook.

Wabinski said the company had been planning the new routes for some time, and they weren't a reaction to Greyhound's announcement.

"We've been planning on expanding across the west since day one," he said. "This announcement accelerates our ability to implement."

Wabinski said the plan is to partner with the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission (ONTC), which already offers passenger bus service in eastern Ontario, going as far as White River.

Kasper and ONTC have been in discussions already, Wabinski said, and he hopes the two companies will work together to transfer passengers between the two services at White River so a continuous cross-Ontario service will be maintained.

However, offering cross-Canada service will be trickier once Greyhound ends its western Canada routes.

"People travelling across Canada may notice an inconvenience, because companies like ours and ONTC ... are more focused on the local customer, the four to 10 hour trips," Wabinski said. "Those customers may have to put a little bit more effort into planning their trips, because they may have to use multiple operators."

Less overhead

Wabinski said Kasper has less overhead than Greyhound, which will help them when it comes to operating in the western provinces.

"I don't have expensive real estate properties," Wabinski said. "The company needs to focus its money on equipment and quality training, and making sure that employees are happy and providing good customer service, instead of corporate offices or matters along those lines."

In addition, Kasper uses smaller buses — they range from 11 seats up to 40 — not the full-sized motor coaches that Greyhound utilizes, which are more expensive to operate and maintain.

"We're trying to focus on equipment that the average shop can fix," Wabinski said.

Wabinski said ideally, Kasper will have its new routes available when Greyhound shuts its western operations down.