Bus company wants rate hike

Terry Roberts
Send to a friend

Send this article to a friend.

Transportation

The company that operates the province's only cross-island scheduled bus service, DRL Coachlines, is seeking approval from the Public Utilities Board (PUB) for a 12 per cent rate increase.

That's in addition to a variable fuel surcharge, which is currently five per cent.

The PUB, which regulates the rates, is accepting comments from the public until Feb. 19, and will make a decision sometime after that.

The company that operates the province's only cross-island scheduled bus service, DRL Coachlines, is seeking approval from the Public Utilities Board (PUB) for a 12 per cent rate increase.

That's in addition to a variable fuel surcharge, which is currently five per cent.

The PUB, which regulates the rates, is accepting comments from the public until Feb. 19, and will make a decision sometime after that.

Jason Roberts, manager of the Triton-based company, said it's becoming increasingly challenging to operate the service. He blames increased operating costs, a gradual decrease in ridership and competition from other companies that "cherry-pick" more lucrative routes.

He said it's been six years since the rates have gone up, and he describes the company's request as reasonable.

DRL Coachlines took over the former CN Roadcruiser service in 1996, and continues to operate a seven-day-a-week service between St. John's and Port aux Basques. It employs 35 people and operates 12 motorcoaches that travel some two million kilometres annually.

An adult fare from coast to coast - some 905 kilometres - currently costs $107 (HST included). If the rate hike is approved, the cost will be just under $120. The fuel charge is an added cost.

Roberts said wage increases necessitated by competition for drivers and mechanics, along with increasing fleet and insurance costs, are major factors in the application. He said commissions paid to businesses that host stopovers along the Trans-Canada Highway have also gone up.

And with the population shifting to more urban areas such as St. John's, Grand Falls-Windsor and Corner Brook, Roberts said the marketplace has changed.

He estimates ridership is down by about five or six per cent in recent years, to about 35,000 passengers annually.

Loopholes in regulations

And while the company has exclusive rights to operate the trans-island service, Roberts said that doesn't mean the company has a monopoly.

He said other bus companies have found loopholes in the regulations to chip away at the company's ridership. Under the regulations, a competing bus company is not permitted to originate or terminate a scheduled service within 10 kilometres of the Trans-Canada Highway.

Roberts said rivals are simply starting their runs outside the area stipulated in the regulation, and doing so in areas where ridership is highest.

"(The PUB is) approving new licences to do this, which is taking away from some of the ridership we normally have to generate our revenue. So if we're going to run from Port aux Basques to St. John's every day, and you're losing bums out of your seats, you're not generating the revenue, and your costs are still the same," Roberts said.

Without an increase, Roberts said, the company may be forced to re-evaluate the level of service it provides. But he stressed this is not something the company wants to do.

"We want to operate daily from Port aux Basques to St. John's, year round, so everyone in this province gets an equal right to be guaranteed to be able to move that day, anywhere in the province," he said.

troberts@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Public Utilities Board, DRL Coachlines, Trans-Canada Highway

Geographic location: St. John's, Port aux Basques, Corner Brook

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Thanks for voting!

Top of page

Comments

Comments

Recent comments

  • Andrew
    July 02, 2010 - 13:08

    DRL service is terrible. No more price increases, work on your customer service and improve your drivers - they're awful, arrogant, providing assistance or even basic courtesy to customers is foreign to them.

  • Andrew
    July 01, 2010 - 19:43

    DRL service is terrible. No more price increases, work on your customer service and improve your drivers - they're awful, arrogant, providing assistance or even basic courtesy to customers is foreign to them.