An OCN-based company is aiming to keep bus service going in Flin Flon after Greyhound ends service on Oct. 31.
Kelsey Bus Lines announced on Oct. 12 that the company plans to start passenger transport service along existing Greyhound routes, including a route between Flin Flon and Thompson, as of Nov. 1, leaving no gap in service between Greyhound’s pending service stoppage and Kelsey Bus Lines assuming the route.
Company CEO Suzanne Barbeau-Bracegirdle said Kelsey Bus will try to keep almost everything consistent with Greyhound’s existing services. The existing bus depot at Coutts’ Convenience in Creighton will still be used and arrival and departure times will stay the same, along with ticket prices – the only change will be the company name on the side of the bus.
“We didn’t want to make too much change for the people who already have customers that are going on the bus, changing the fees or the freight. We want to keep it consistent with what’s going on now,” said Barbeau-Bracegirdle, adding the company also plans to add freight transport service on Nov. 1.
When the company begins bus transit, it will start with two routes – a Flin Flon-Winnipeg route and a Thompson-Winnipeg route. Other areas, including stops at Peguis First Nation, may come in the future, with the company also announcing plans to put out a survey to determine customer priorities and locations that may be serviced.
Barbeau-Bracegirdle said the company received approval from the Manitoba Motor Transport Board earlier this month to operate public transport and has full Certificate of Recognition (COR) certification for their buses. The company, which has previously operated charter buses throughout northern Manitoba, will purchase two more buses and hopes to expand throughout Manitoba. Kelsey buses will also include video surveillance cameras.
“Our goal is to stay viable. We’re in the north, the main office is going to be in the north and we want to make sure everything is in the north,” said Barbeau-Bracegirdle.
For Tim Coutts, the owner of Coutts’ Convenience in Creighton and the operator of the Flin Flon area’s only Greyhound stop, the announcement of a new partner is welcome news. After the 2017 shutdown of the Saskatchewan Transportation Company (STC), the Greyhound bus between Flin Flon and Winnipeg was the only bus at the stop.
“When I first took over with Greyhound and the STC was still going, I had 21 buses coming out of here a week. We were down to six, and it looked like we were going down to zero,” he said.
“We had buses to Prince Albert, a daily bus to Winnipeg plus a night bus six days a week and we had a bus to Thompson three days a week. The busing has changed, Canada-wide, big time over the past few years.”
Coutts hopes the interest in buses throughout northern Manitoba could lead to other lines taking passengers west from Creighton, picking up routes that were formerly serviced by STC.
“There’s a lot of unknowns heading into Nov. 1 for us,” he said.
The Kelsey Bus announcement adds to what may be a crowded market for bus services in the north in coming months. Another northern company, Thompson Bus, has already announced a freight transport service from Thompson to The Pas and Flin Flon, as well as passenger transport from Flin Flon to Thompson and a Thompson-Winnipeg route. Other companies, including Maple Bus Lines and Ontario-based Kasper Transportation, have also announced intentions to enter northern Manitoba markets.
Barbeau-Bracegirdle said she feels Kelsey Bus, as an established company that already offers some bus services, including for sports teams, businesses, and during evacuations, may have an edge, but the company may work with other groups to keep transport available.
“These are all new groups that are operating here. We’re an experienced owner and operator, we have a team of management here that is excellent. We have a bus depot and shop already,” she said.
“Any time there’s packages that have to be dropped off, if Maple (Bus Lines) needs to drop off packages in The Pas, they can drop them off at our bus depot. We want to work with everybody.”