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An interim long-haul bus service is being started in northern British Columbia by the province as Greyhound reduces and eliminates routes in the region.

BC Bus North will start operating on Monday, three days after Greyhound discontinues its service on the money-losing routes.

The cuts by Greyhound include routes along the so-called Highway of Tears between Prince George and Prince Rupert; Prince George to Valemont at the Alberta boundary; Dawson Creek to Prince George; and Dawson Creek to Whitehorse. At least 18 women have gone missing or have been murdered along the Highway of Tears, several of them last seen hitchhiking.

Cutting the routes put many groups at risk, including Indigenous communities, women and seniors, said Transportation Minister Claire Trevena, adding BC Bus North will change that by providing safe, reliable and affordable service.

“People will no longer have to wait at the side of the road in the middle of the night for their bus. BC Bus North’s schedules will work for people so they can travel safely from one town to the next,” she said.

The province’s Passenger Transportation Board approved Greyhound’s application to cut and reduce the routes after it found demand declined by 46 per cent since 2010. It said the company received no subsidies for the routes and lost $70-million over the last six years.

When the cuts were announced, Greyhound vice-president Stuart Kendrick said ridership had dwindled to less than 10 people per trip and the numbers were not sustainable long term.

The province’s new service will include two round-trips per week between Prince Rupert and Prince George; Prince George and Valemount; and Prince George and Dawson Creek-Fort St. John. It will also offer one round-trip per week from Fort Nelson to Dawson Creek-Fort St. John.

BC Transit will spend an estimated $2-million on the service, but hopes to offset the cost with fares, said Erinn Pinkerton, interim president and CEO of the transit corporation.

A one-way ticket will cost either $35 or $45, depending how far people are travelling. Customers will need to pre-book and prepay for their trips, either online or through a call-in centre.

The one-year project marks the first time BC Transit has run a long-haul service and Pinkerton said changes to fares and routes could be made once data is available about ridership and costs.

“We’re willing to make changes and improvements as we get going,” she said.

The province has committed to funding BC Bus North for 12 months.

“As far as the ministry is concerned, this is an interim solution. This is to cover the loss of Greyhound while we work with communities,” Trevena said. “But we are working with communities to find the best solution in the coming years.”