More delays ahead for Gulf ferry users, Newfoundland officials warn
ST. JOHN’S (July 7, 1999) – Federal help won’t come soon enough to prevent delays for truckers and other travellers on the Gulf ferry service between Newfoundland and the mainland, Newfoundland’s ministers of transportation and tourism warned.
“Seventy per cent of all sailings on the Port aux Basques run were sold out in July and August last year,” said Rick Woodford, Minister of Works, Services, and Transportation. “If the growth we have witnessed so far in 1999 continues throughout the summer, it will mean a combination of more trucks delayed and more tourists unable to obtain passage to the province. This means lost economic benefits to Newfoundland and Labrador.”
Traffic on the ferry continues to set a record pace: overall, from 1996 to 1998, passenger traffic increased 11.84%; passenger vehicles increased 11.73%; and commercial units increased 6.24%.
Last month, provincial officials asked federal transport minister David Collenette to replace the federally funded Atlantic Freighter, which is old and lacks adequate capacity. Collenette asked for more studies before a replacement is approved.
Marine Atlantic, meanwhile, was asked to explore alternatives to the vessel. The ferry service dismissed the province’s proposal to lease a Super Sea Cat high-speed ferry from a company in Italy on a short-term basis to relieve traffic pressures in 1999. Such a ferry could reduce the sailing time between Port aux Basques and North Sydney to less than under three hours. Marine Atlantic said the idea was too expensive and that the ship would not arrive in time to provide sufficient relief.
The ministers, speaking at a press conference yesterday, said a new federal ferry should be approved as soon as possible so it will be ready for service in 2000.
On the weekend of June 26, as many as 40 trucks were delayed in crossing from North Sydney because of insufficient capacity, they said.
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