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BC Ferries passenger traffic dropped to lowest level in 21 years

With dropping vehicle traffic and passenger levels, BC Ferries lost money last fiscal year despite receiving a boost from the provincial government.

An announcement from the publicly owned company says that in the year that ended March 31, 2012, vehicle traffic declined by 3.5 percent to the lowest level in 13 years. Passenger traffic fell by 2.8 percent, making it the lowest its been in 21 years.

Dropping revenues and increasing costs translated into a $16.5 million net loss. A year earlier the company had a $3.8 million profit, a figure that included $9.3 million from the sale of its former head office building in Victoria.

The loss for 2011-2012 is despite the inclusion of $25 million from the B.C. government to reduce the pressure from rising fares. A further $54.5 million will be applied over the next four years.

The company's press release quoted the BC Ferry Commissioner's report from last year that "clearly articulates the challenges ahead if BC Ferries continues to operate the same level of service with the same level of government funding."

BC Ferries is forecasting a loss in fiscal 2013 and a return to profitability in 2014 "assuming no further deterioration in traffic." Meanwhile, it said, BC Ferries does not anticipate economic conditions or traffic levels will improve in the near future.

Between 2003 and 2011 fares on the major routes between Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland increased by 47 per cent, while on the minor and northern routes the increase was 80 per cent. Over the same period the cost of living in Vancouver increased by just 14 per cent.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Find him on Twitter or reach him here.

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