Missed appointments and long waits: the chair of La Poile's transportation committee says enough is enough.
Raymond Vautier says residents of the community — unreachable by road — on Newfoundland's southwest coast need more room on the ferry that takes them west to Rose Blanche-Harbour le Cou.
"The main concern is the same one we've had for a few years, is capacity. Twelve passengers," Vautier told the Corner Brook Morning Show.
"It's not enough, because if you've got to get to Port aux Basques for a doctor's appointment or any other kind of appointment, or maybe on to Corner Brook, you want to get to Rose Blanche on the first trip. You don't make it, you're not getting there until probably 2 or 2:30 in the afternoon. And you gotta get up at 5, 5:30 in the morning, go down on the dock, if you really want to make the first trip."
The low capacity means people miss appointments, he said.
"You gotta wait until the morning to see if you're gonna make it. Then you can't call in to cancel them until the last minute," he said.
Vautier said when the federal government handed the service to the provincial government in 1995, the run was served by a 40-passenger ferry. He said the Challenge One, which carries about 20 passengers, has been used more recently, but while it is out of service for a refit the 12-passenger Marine Eagle will be on the run until June.
"People are fed up. Completely fed up," he said. "They say it's time for change."
Newer, bigger ferry needed
A newer, bigger ferry is what's needed. Not only that, but the Marine Eagle, while seaworthy, has plenty of problems of its own.
"It's usually docking or moving away from the dock, she loses power for minutes. Ten, 15 minutes before you're getting on the go," he said. "Monday morning when we left, it was 20 minutes or so."
While Vautier acknowledged that most of the time there are just a few passengers on a given run, the ferry is over capacity usually once or twice a week.
"We don't have a problem with the service. You're getting in and out every day," he said. "We don't have a problem with the operator as such. But it has to change."
Vautier said he'd like to see the Challenge One back on the run. A request for proposals has gone out for a new — and "new" means 30 years old or newer — but Vautier isn't a fan of some of the terms of the request: a 20-passenger capacity with no specified minimum speed.
$1 million a year for ferry
"It's hard to listen to, but hey, the government money is going to go anyway, so it's no different than repairing the roads, to me," he said. "It's an essential service for the few people that are there, but I know a lot of people are just saying 'move out.'"
La Poile ferry service costs about $1 million a year, which is "not a lot of money," he said.
"I have nothing against the people of St. Brendan's, but their ferry cost $30 million to build, or more. It costs $6 million to operate for about the same many people as La Poile has," he said. "Why? We can only get out once a day. They get out three or four times a day. There's lots of places to save money without saying 'move everybody.'"