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Liard River ferry service now on-demand

Roxanna Thompson
Northern News Services
Friday, May 25, 2007

FORT SIMPSON - Passengers on the Liard River ferry are now enjoying a service that has been available across the rest of the territory.

NNSL Photo/Graphic

Despite having just made a trip, the MV Lafferty heads across the Liard River because of the new on demand service to pick up vehicles that just arrived at the opposite landing. - Roxanna Thompson/NNSL photo

Since its first trip of the season on May 9, the MV Lafferty has been operating on an on-demand basis. All other ferries in the territory already have on demand service.

Many drivers seem to appreciate the service change.

"I think people like it," said Antoine Tsetso, a deckhand on the ferry.

Many people have commented that the change in service is a good thing because they don't have to wait as long on either side of the river, said Tsetso.

Working in his third year on the MV Lafferty, Tsetso said he also likes the change because the additional trips keep him busy and makes the time pass faster.

Previously, the Liard River ferry ran on a scheduled service leaving one side of the river on the hour and the other side on the half-hour. If a driver arrived to see the ferry chugging away from the bank they often had to wait for more than half an hour to get to the other side.

Approximately eight years ago the ferry ran on-demand. The change in service was made because at the time there was a lot of pressure on the territorial government to cut their costs, said Kevin Menicoche, the minister of transportation. The ferry service was changed to save money.

After years of scheduled service, however, it appears that the fuel savings made by using a scheduled service are not significant, said Menicoche. Menicoche was unable to state the exact difference in cost between the two types of service.

"There wasn't that much of a savings," he said.

Although fewer trips were made, the engine on the ferry had to be kept idling between the trips, said Menicoche.

The decision to move back to the on-demand service was made after many requests and letters of concern from community members over the past few years, said Menicoche. Many members of the public said that the MV Lafferty was the only ferry in the territory with this kind of service, he said.

When an assessment showed that the savings in fuel cost were not significant enough, officials in the Department of Transportation decided to make the change to provide a safer and more effective service to the public, he said.

"I'm very happy to see the Liard Ferry move to on-demand service," said Menicoche.