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Private bus firm seeks to take on Greyhound

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A privately owned inter-city bus company is making a pitch to operate in competition with Greyhound in Manitoba.

Calgary-based Pacific Western Transportation announced Monday it will tour four Manitoba towns and cities, including Winnipeg, next week to show off its buses. The visit comes as a provincial subsidy agreement between Manitoba and Greyhound is about to expire.

Pacific Western said its eBus motorcoach division provides "economical, efficient and safe transportation" in Alberta. It says its 48-seat buses are equipped with extra legroom, lap belts, a washroom, wireless Internet and 110-volt power outlets.

A little over two years ago, Greyhound Canada shocked the province and the mostly rural and northern Manitobans who rely on its service by announcing it would cease passenger service in Manitoba. The company said it could no longer afford to run buses on many unprofitable routes, as required by government.

Since then, the provincial government has paid a series of subsidies to Greyhound to maintain service to remote locations while it works on a permanent solution. The latest agreement expires March 31.

Now, another company is interested in providing inter-city service.

"PWT can help the Manitoba government achieve a long-term solution to the inter-city bus problem that was created in 2009," company vice-president Garry Clermont said in a statement. "We can help phase out government subsidies, and work with local providers to develop a made-in-Manitoba hub-and-spoke model that increases bus use and improves service."

The Manitoba government would have to approve any new inter-city bus service provider.

Jodee Mason, a provincial spokeswoman, said no talks have yet been held between Pacific Western and the government, although officials will listen to the company's pitch next week. "There's definitely no negotiating going on with them right now," Mason said.

Doug Dobrowolski, president of the Association of Manitoba Municipalities, said he welcomed interest from another inter-city bus carrier. The AMM has expressed concern at Greyhound's potential departure.

"I think competition is good," he said. "I just hope it doesn't give an excuse for Greyhound to leave."

A spokesman for Greyhound Canada could not be reached on Monday.

Kelly Aizicowitz, a spokeswoman for PWT, said the tour will serve as the company's introduction to Manitobans. The company will visit Thompson, Flin Flon, The Pas and Winnipeg between Jan. 16 and Jan. 20.

Aizicowitz said Pacific Western Transportation is interested in providing coach service to more than just these towns and cities in Manitoba, but an expanded list won't be released until next week.


-- Who is Pacific Western Transportation?

A privately owned Calgary-based company that provides inter-city bus service in Alberta, a regional medical transportation service in British Columbia and urban transit services in Ontario.

-- What is it offering?

Next week, PWT will demonstrate its inter-city and medical buses in four Manitoba towns and cities -- Winnipeg, Thompson, Flin Flon and The Pas.

-- When is the company doing its Winnipeg show and tell?

On Jan. 20, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., at the Gateway Community Centre (Blue Room), 600 Bonner Ave.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 10, 2012 A4

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