Newfoundland freezes intra-provincial ferry rates

ST. JOHN’S (Jan. 28) — The provincial government announced an immediate freeze on intra-provincial ferry rates until a review of the system’s rate policy is complete.

Rates are already frozen on the Labrador Coastal Service and the St. Barbe-Blanc Sablon ferry service. The ferry rate structure which would see incremental fare increases each year from 1995-1999 was instituted in 1995.

“I have received representation from most areas serviced by the ferry system seeking a review of the current ferry rate policy and I have also recently received a request from the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Municipalities also lending their support to a policy review. I believe the issues and concerns raised by the communities serviced by the ferries should be addressed,” said Rick Woodford, Minister of Works, Services, and Transportation.

“No further scheduled rate increases will occur until a complete review of the Ferry Rate Policy and Structure has been completed.”

It’s been a rough month for ferry travellers, especially those using Marine Atlantic. The company has been dogged by weather-related service delays and criticism over management decisions.

Among the most outspoken critics is Woodford, who in a letter addressed to Marine Atlantic chairperson Moya Cahill, said that since the start of the year service has been “completely and totally” unacceptable.

The minister said Marine Atlantic’s poor service to the trucking industry has major negative impacts on the economy of the province, and that Marine Atlantic has a responsibility under the Terms of Union to uphold a level of service which meets Canada’s commitment to the province.

“When supplies are not delivered in a timely fashion, businesses on the island come to a halt. When goods do not get off the island, commitments for delivery to customers are missed and future orders are lost,” Woodford said. “These situations give clear and abundant evidence that Marine Atlantic management do not consider the effects of their decisions on the people and businesses who must use the ferry service.”

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