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City staff in Halifax to draft a report on ferry service after cancellations

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Halifax councillors voted for city staff to draft a report on the transit's ferry service after seeing a number cancellations over recent weeks.

“In the last couple of weeks, we’ve had real challenges with the ferry. Their service has been disrupted several times and so we really need to take a look at the whole situation here,” said councillor Sam Austin.

The cancellations are due to staffing issues. If an individual is unable to go in to work, it affects the service the ferry can provide.

“The ferry needs at least four people to run the service and if you're missing anything, then it’s not like a bus where there’s several hundred people you could bring in,” said Austin. “When you’re missing someone, you have to pull the service.”

However, labour shortages are not new to the ferry service. Austin said recommendations in the past have been to increase the pay of ferry operators.

“When you’re struggling to deliver the basic service, maybe that extra crew suddenly starts to make worthwhile. Something I think we should take another look at is how do we build that capacity in the system? Is it by adding another full-time crew that you can utilize for special events?” he said.

The ferry service between Halifax and Dartmouth is the oldest method of crossing the harbour.

Commuters like Jasween Kaur depend on the ferry service. She uses the ferry at least three days a week since she does not have a car or a licence, making it the fastest route to her college. However, since the cancellations, she can no longer rely on it.

“I got to the ferry terminal and realized that there’s no more ferry so I had to take the number five (bus) and then go to the bridge terminal and then take the number three, which took me about an extra 20 minutes,” said Kaur.

The cancellation caused Kaur to miss a chunk of her class. Since then, she's started taking the bus.

“I take the bus more now since the cancellations have started," she said.

This adds 20 more minutes to Kaur’s commute each way, but the trade off is worth it.

“Even yesterday, the Woodside ferry stopped working,” she said.

According to Austin, the staff report could take months to complete.

Until then, Kaur plans to commute using the bus, but she is hopeful the ferry will offer a reliable service without any cancellations.

For more Nova Scotia news visit our dedicated provincial page.

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