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Langdale route to get reprieve when Transport Canada car deck rules go back into force

Transport Canada is ending the temporary exemption that allowed BC Ferries passengers to remain in their vehicles on lower, closed car decks, but the ferry company has found a way to allow Langdale-Horseshoe Bay travellers to continue staying with their cars. The company announced Sept.

9 that Transport Canada is "rescinding the temporary flexibility it granted to ferry operators" as of Sept.

30.

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Transport Canada started allowing the exemption early in the spring to help travellers maintain distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. "During the pandemic these risks were mitigated with additional safety procedures and patrols," BC Ferries said. "However, Transport Canada has now advised BC Ferries that measures have been developed and implemented to prevent the spread of the disease in all transportation modes and businesses across Canada."

At the end of the month, the no passengers on closed car decks rule will go back into force on the Powell River-Comox, Horseshoe Bay-Departure Bay, Tsawwassen-Swartz Bay, Tsawwassen-Duke Point and Tsawwassen-Southern Gulf Islands routes. "On the Horseshoe Bay-Langdale route, BC Ferries has approval from Transport Canada to safely allow passengers to remain on the main vehicle deck following modifications to the vessels and procedures," the company said. Southern Sunshine Coast Ferry Advisory Committee chair Diana Mumford told Coast Reporter the modifications, which will involve keeping the rear doors of the lower deck open to allow it to qualify as an open car deck, are a "very positive new change" in dealing with a situation that has frustrated Route 3 travellers since the rules were first implemented.

"Safety is our highest value and we provide a safe and healthy travel experience. Customers are legally required to comply with this federal regulation," said BC Ferries president Mark Collins. "We expect our customers to follow the law and we continue to have zero tolerance policy for abuse of any kind towards our employees. Failure to follow the direction of our crew or abuse towards an employee may result in denial of service and Transport Canada enforcement measures."

In a recent update to members, BC Ferry and Marine Workers Union president Graeme Johnston said the union was expecting the Transport Canada announcement and was "deeply concerned about the risk [ending the exemption] may pose to our members, especially when winter weather makes social distancing that much more difficult."

Johnston said the union will "advocate for alternative solutions."

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