Canada villages face isolation without Greyhound

Fri Sep 4, 2009 5:14pm EDT
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By Rod Nickel and Susan Taylor

WINNIPEG/OTTAWA (Reuters) - Each day a single Greyhound bus pulls into Ethelbert, Manitoba, population 312, and stops for just five minutes before moving on -- a critical lifeline for the village's fragile economy.

But in a potentially painful blow to hundreds of small towns like Ethelbert, Greyhound now plans to pull out of Manitoba and northern Ontario next month.

If the company, a unit of Britain's FirstGroup, makes good on its plan, a huge swath of rural Canada will lose a crucial link with the rest of the world.

"It brings lots of people into the store and the town," said Robert Rewniak, 46, who owns a grocery store that also functions as Greyhound's bus stop.

"First we lost our railway, now we're going to lose all our bus service. These towns are really shrinking and nothing's helping at all."

Greyhound Canada, the country's largest intercity bus line, said on Thursday that the long-standing routes are unprofitable. It said it may end bus service across Western Canada unless it gets government help.

But Greyhound is Ethelbert's sole connection to larger communities, a critical link for elderly people traveling to medical appointments. The contract with Greyhound has also helped sustain Rewniak's Solo Store -- no small feat as villagers die or move away, he said.


<p>Richard Belhumeur takes the bus often to get from his rural home to job sites. REUTERS/Rod Nickel</p>