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Package delivery firms get ready to fill gap as Greyhound leaves Western Canada

Package delivery firms say they are prepared to fill the gap when Greyhound Canada closes most of its Western Canada operations this October. A worker removes luggage from a Greyhound bus upon arrival in Vancouver on Monday, July 9, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Package delivery firms say they are prepared to fill the gap when Greyhound Canada closes most of its Western Canada operations this fall.

The company says its Greyhound Package Express service will no longer be available in most parts of B.C., northern Ontario and all of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba after it ends passenger service at the end of October.

“It might create some opportunities for us on our small package delivery side of things,” said Dennis Steele, owner of Steele’s Transfer in Calgary.

Transport companies like his compete with Greyhound’s lower prices by offering services tailored to customer needs, he said.

Steele said his company, started by his parents in 1957, has about 30 drivers who mainly serve the Edmonton-Calgary corridor, but it offers a wider range of delivery points through interline and third-party carriers.

David Butler, Greyhound’s regional vice-president for Eastern Canada, said the areas being closed accounted for about 1.15 million of the 1.2 million packages Greyhound delivers each year, adding about two-thirds of the shipments were made under contract by commercial customers.

Greyhound’s freight service cost less than most, but its schedule was also usually less convenient as it depended on the passenger bus schedule, Butler said.

“It’s a very competitive marketplace and there’s a lot of options for the customers from the package business to look at,” he said.

Greyhound said it was ending passenger service after years of adjusting schedules and prices because ridership had fallen by nearly 41 per cent across the country since 2010. Butler said the package service is down 35 per cent in the same period.

A spokeswoman for Purolator Canada wouldn’t comment directly on Greyhound’s service, but said the closing won’t affect its business plans.

“We don’t expect this news will affect Purolator going forward. In fact, we have been growing and expanding our services and capabilities,” Courtney Reistetter wrote in an email.

James Anderson, a spokesman for FedEx Canada, wouldn’t comment on the Greyhound service, but said his firm is well able to handle delivery demand with a total of 38 hubs or facilities throughout Western Canada.

Margaret Becker, who operates a “hotshot” delivery business at Fort St. John in northeastern B.C., said the oil and gas sector uses Greyhound as an equipment parts delivery service and to transport workers to towns near their drilling sites.

“Someone else will take it over,” she said, adding demand is low now because depressed natural gas prices have stalled local activity in the sector.

The loss of Greyhound’s package service in Western Canada stirred up memories for Calgarian Gary Blaney, 50, who recalled dozens of packages delivered over the years by Greyhound to his far-flung family members.

“For as long as I can remember, my family has used Greyhound to send boxes of presents at Christmas time,” he said. “It was the most affordable way and the most reliable way.”

He said his family’s flow of packages sent by Greyhound peaked when he was growing up in a small town in Saskatchewan when it was the best way to connect with relatives in Ontario, Alberta and B.C.

But that traffic has almost entirely stopped since he moved to Calgary more than a decade ago.

“That’s the world we live in. Lots of other ways to send stuff these days.”