BC Ferries virtual meeting

BC Ferries virtual meeting about Campbell River’s new e-ferries

There were new revelations at the BC Ferries virtual meeting about changes coming to the Campbell River – Quadra Island run

The Cortes Island terminal, which will be affected by the change and may receive its own Island Class ferry in the next ten years or so – Roy L Hales photo

The new hybrid electric ferries

Two new Island Class ferries will take over this route in the Spring of 2022.  They are powered by an electric/diesel combination, but could go fully electric in the next three to four years if more funding is made available to the program.

While the official capacity of the two new hybrid e-ferries is 94 cars per hour, this calculation does not take small cars into account. For example the “Powell River Queen’s’ official capacity is 59 cars, but it has actually carried up to 80 vehicles. A similar discrepancy between capacity and the actual number of vehicles carried will occur when the two Island Class hybrid electrics, whose nominal capacity is 47 cars each, take over this route.    

The new hybrid e-ferries will add 59% more capacity to the route during peak hours. 

Overloads in Campbell River

The new schedule currently calls for one of the ferries to retire at 5 PM every day. As a Heriot Bay resident pointed out, the overloads from Campbell River often continue well after this and during the summer he has still been stuck in Campbell River as late as 8 PM. 

Peter Simpson, BC Ferries Director of Fleet Operations, replied that some of the overloads build up during the day and this problem should be addressed by the addition of more capacity. BC Ferries will keep an eye on any increased traffic arriving after 5 PM. 

Preferred loading status

Cars on the first ferry from Cortes Island are currently given preferred loading status when they reach the Quathiaski Cove terminal, on Mondays and Thursdays. Simpson explained that it is easier to leave this system in place while they discuss scheduling. BC Ferries and the Ferry Advisory Committee (FAC) may revisit the question when they deal with connectivity issues. 

A Quadra Island resident noted that as a result of preference being shown to Cortes passengers, the ferry often leaves Quathiaski Cove later on Mondays and Thursdays. Simpson explained that this was because Cortes residents are offloaded from their ferry in the same order they loaded, this takes a little more time.

Someone asked if a reservation system could be introduced on the Campbell River – Quadra Island route. Brian Anderson, BC Ferries Vice President in charge of Strategy and Community Engagement replied that BC Ferries is open to the idea and could discuss it further with the Ferry Advisory Committee if there is a community desire for it. 

Regional Director Jim Abram asked if preferred loading status could be given to island residents. 

Anderson responded that this was outside the mandate of a public transportation system. BC Ferries has been allowed in specific circumstances, like a medical emergency or the preference given to residents for a limited time during the early stages of the pandemic, but the Ministry of Transportation is responsible for policy. 

“Certainly we can bend in limited ways, but when it comes to wholesale (adoption) it is a broader discussion,” said Anderson.  

He added, “This doesn’t mean it can’t happen, it is just a different conversation with a different group of people.”

The Quadra- Cortes Island route. The ferry’s berth is in Whaletown, Cortes Island – screenshot from BC Ferries website

The Cortes – Quadra run

More traffic could be coming to Cortes Island after the e-ferries commence operations. There are no immediate plans to change this ferry’s schedule, but when the Tachek is retired, in about 10 years, BC Ferries plans to replace it with a higher capacity Island Class ferry.

Top photo credit: An island class ferry undergoing speed trials – courtesy BC Ferries