September 17, 2015 - 7:00 AM
VICTORIA - Coastal travellers will see stable but rising fares when sailing aboard BC Ferries over the next four years.
Ferries commissioner Gord Macatee confirmed Wednesday that price increases will be capped at 1.9 per cent per year from 2016 to 2020, as proposed earlier this year.
Macatee outlined his decision for the hike in a report after conducting an independent review of the newest Coastal Ferry Services contract.
He determined that answering public demands for a rollback in fares was outside of his authority.
"The commissioner notes that a great deal of work has gone into addressing fare affordability over the past four years," a news release said.
Such efforts have resulted in caps below the Bank of Canada's target inflation rate of two per cent, it said.
Lowering fares was "incompatible" with BC Ferries' mandate to balance its interests as well as those of ferry users and taxpayers, the release said.
The provincial government said the fare increases, beginning next April 1, will be the lowest since 2003.
Transportation Minister Todd Stone described the decision as good news for ferry users.
But he added BC Ferries must keep progressing toward achieving the government's vision of lower fares.
"There is more work for BC Ferries to do over the next four years to further reduce pressure on fares to ensure our coastal ferry service operates as efficiently and affordably as possible, well into the future," Todd said in a release.
In June, BC Ferries announced a $30-million jump in net earnings, and its president Mike Corrigan said that would allow fares to stay at or below projected inflation rates.
News from © The Canadian Press, 2015