The head of the company that operates the bus service in Nakusp and Slocan Valley says he’s confident the months of service interruptions in the region have come to an end.
“I feel we are over the worst of it,” said CEO of NextGen Transit, Trevor Stach. “It’s looking much better.”
Stach says the company’s recruiting efforts have finally paid off, and NextGen has hired a new driver and a back-up in Nakusp, and new drivers from Nelson for the Slocan route.
“We’ve delivered 100 per cent of our service in the last week, and we see for the foreseeable future here that we should be able to do the same,” he told the Valley Voice on June 8.
Stach told a regional transit committee meeting in May that the company, which took over the service last fall, lost a third of its local workforce when vaccine mandates for drivers came into effect in November. Finding people to fill those vacancies was difficult for a number of reasons. Hundreds of bus runs were cancelled over the following six months – up to 10 per cent of all scheduled runs, and service from Nakusp stopped entirely for a month.
“I think we missed more service in the month of December than we missed in 40 years of service in Trail-Castlegar,” says Stach. “It’s not a thing we take lightly – it’s not a thing we do easily. And we’re just really, really thrilled that we’re getting back to the point where we can deliver all the service.”
Stach says there may still be the occasional cancellation, but he’s optimistic those will be much fewer and farther between. The company is also looking to hire several more drivers to deepen its backfill pool even further.
“That’s to help us round out the number of employees and make sure we have good coverage for everything that comes along the way,” he says.
The West Kootenay Transit system is used by many residents of the Slocan Valley and Nakusp for medical appointments or for shopping and other services.