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Travellers wear protective face masks as they board a Greyhound bus in downtown San Antonio in March.

Eric Gay/The Associated Press

Greyhound Canada says it is temporarily ending its remaining busing and service operations, as the need for transportation came to a near halt with the arrival of the pandemic.

In a statement, the company called the shutdown a “regrettable” result of COVID-19, adding that ridership has declined 95 per cent. Bus services will end May 12 at midnight, affecting 400 employees.

The new measures impact routes throughout Ontario, and one route from Ottawa to Montreal. The company said it had reduced service on March 25 and April 5, temporarily suspending nine routes, six of which were also served by other bus companies. With the temporary closing of the U.S.-Canada border, the company had also suspended three routes to the United States.

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“Although the company has made every effort to reduce costs, and has made significant outreach efforts to the provincial and federal governments, it cannot continue operations absent financial support,” Greyhound Canada said in the statement.

Stuart Kendrick, senior vice-president of Greyhound Canada, said as the company continues to “navigate” the situation, it will keep its customers and employees “top of mind.”

“We regret the difficulty that this will cause them, but this decision came as a last resort option to address the uncontrollable consequences and devastating impacts of this pandemic,” he said in the statement, adding that Greyhound Canada will continue discussions with the provincial and federal governments.

Livia Belcea, a spokesperson for Transport Minister Marc Garneau, said the federal government recognizes that inter-city bus transportation has been “hit hard” by the pandemic and recognizes the service buses provide to people across the country.

“Our Government has been in touch with these companies affected by this situation. We continue discussions with our provincial counterparts to find solutions and are exploring all options to understand the challenges and help support the industry recover from the impact of COVID-19,” said Ms. Belcea.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said the loss of inter-city bus service is “another big hit to people who have the least.”

“It’s going to put hundreds of people out of work and leave hundreds more stranded,” he said in a statement.

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Greyhound Canada signalled that it was in significant trouble two years ago, when it stopped its service in the Prairies, British Columbia and northern Ontario. At the time, activists and Indigenous leaders said they feared for the health and well-being of people in remote communities. The company had cited declining ridership as the primary reason, but also competition from subsidized national and inter-regional passenger transportation services, the growth of new low-cost airlines, regulatory constraints and the continued growth of car ownership.

At the time, despite pressure from the company and others, the government did not make any effort to help the struggling bus line, with Transport Canada saying interprovincial bus carriers are the responsibility of the provinces and territories.

Mr. Singh said on Wednesday evening that across rural communities and cities, it is primarily women, low-income earners, seniors and many essential workers who depend on buses.

“The inter-city bus companies have asked for relatively little to keep rolling. The federal government has to quit pointing fingers and make sure the crucial bus companies and the people who rely on them get the support they need,” he said.

With a report from The Canadian Press.

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