Thunder Bay

Going without Greyhound: Travellers to end up stranded with loss of connections

Travelling across Western Canada by bus will get a lot harder as of October 31.

The national carrier will cease operations west of Sudbury, Ont., as of Oct. 31

The former Greyhound Bus stop sign in White River, Ont is faded, with the company ceasing operations in the community October 31. (Jeff Walters/CBC)

Travelling across Western Canada by bus will get a lot harder as of October 31.

Greyhound Canada will cease operations west of Sudbury, Ont., on Halloween. The company cites a declining number of passengers.

To see first-hand how difficult the trip could be in Northern Ontario, where in some communities, Greyhound Canada is the only public means of transportation, I set out to leave Sudbury, Ont., to make it back home to Thunder Bay, Ont.,

On Greyhound, the journey should take about 15 hours to complete, travelling just over 1,000 km. Without the national carrier, the trip takes over two days, on at least two different companies.

Departing Sudbury has two options, one being a Budd Car train service, running to White River, Ont., while the other is a coach bus also running to White River. I chose to take the train, departing at 7 a.m.
VIA Rail passengers arriving in White River, Ont., find the train station to be boarded up. If connecting to another mode of transportation, travellers will have to walk seven blocks to the highway, and will have to stay in the community overnight. (Jeff Walters/CBC)

The train is heavily subsidized, with only five passengers, myself included, leaving Sudbury the morning I departed. A few others got on and off along the route at whistle stops or mileage markers, completing camping trips in the bush in Northern Ontario.

The arrival in White River was around 3:15 p.m, about the same time you would arrive by bus. The train, however, is half the price of using the provincial crown corporation Ontario Northland. The provincial bus service stops in White River, and does not serve the western half of Ontario.

Never heard of White River, Ont? You will have to stay there

For any traveller heading west, there is no option but to stay in White River. The community of about 800 people has only two motels, less than 100 rooms total. They fill up quickly, and if you don't have a reservation, there may be no place to stay.

If you plan on travelling on the weekend, there is no service on Sunday for the train or bus west of White River.

The train arrives at a boarded up train station, and the buses all meet at the local A&W. The restaurant closes at 10 p.m. most nights, meaning there is nowhere for a traveller to stay if they cannot afford, or find a motel room. White River is hot in the summer with lots of bugs, and cold in the winter. The community advertises itself as the "Coldest Spot in Canada" with a record low of -58 C. Travellers without a place to stay overnight would not be able to sit outside, in the elements, for hours on end.
The VIA Rail Budd Car service, running between Sudbury and White River, Ont., runs three times a week in each direction. Passengers connecting through White River will have to stay in the community overnight. (Jeff Walters/CBC)

A traveller who has mobility issues, if changing modes of transportation, would have a difficult time making the seven block walk from the White River Train Station to the gas stations along the highway, where buses pick up passengers. There is no taxi service in the community or public transportation.

Heading west, a traveller has no option other than to spend 16 hours in the community. Those heading east must wait overnight as well, as the only eastbound Ontario Northland bus leaves early in the morning.

On Wednesday, CBC will have interviews with Angelo Bazzoni, the Mayor of White River, who also owns one of the two motels and service station, talking about the impact the loss of the service has on his community, not only for passengers, but those who send cargo on the bus. We will also speak with Jim and Rollie Walsh who own the A&W Restaurant, which services the bus passengers as they travel through White River.

About the Author

Jeff Walters


Born and raised in Thunder Bay, Jeff is proud to work in his hometown, as well as throughout northwestern Ontario. Away from work, you can find him skiing (on water or snow), curling, out at the lake or flying.


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