Protesting the rate increases of the Englishtown Ferry

Protesting the rate increases of the Englishtown Ferry
This is an article written by David Jala which was published in the Cape Breton Post in April of 2015.
Click here for the original link.

ENGLISHTOWN — Preschoolers Aven Murphy and Ellanor Burns are best friends who live on either side of the Englishtown ferry crossing.

The two young girls were among the 150 people who braved cold, ocean winds Thursday when they gathered on the Jersey Cove sandspit to protest recent fare increases to the Englishtown ferry.

With the Torquil MacLean ferry sitting idle on the Englishtown side of the crossing, demonstrators carried placards that criticized both the fare hikes and the unreliable nature of the service.

“People use this ferry to go to work, to go to church, to buy groceries, to visit friends and family — the ferry is a part of the road system and the new fares are not fair,” said Wreck Cove resident Jitka Zgola, who added that she has a 100-kilometre drive to get her mail when the ferry is not operating.

As of April 1, the cost of taking a one-way ride on the cable ferry increased from $5 to $7.50, while annual car passes rose from $162 to $250, and a 10-trip pass went from $13.50 to $35.

Merrill MacInnis, a Victoria County councillor and fisherman from Indian Brook, told the gathering to keep up the fight against the fare increases and to continue pressuring elected officials bringing the Englishtown ferry up to an acceptable level of service.

“Let’s keep the pressure on our MLAs, let’s keeping hounding them — that is what they are there for, we got to keep telling them that we mean business,” said MacInnis, who addressed the crowd from the back bumper of a pickup truck.

“This crossing is a vital link for the residents around here— the fare increase is one issue, but it’s about the whole service, something has to be done.”

Breton Cove resident Ulrich Nikolai spoke for many at the gathering when he said the link between Englishtown and Jersey Cove is important enough to warrant construction of a bridge.

“Build us a bridge, we’ll gladly pay the toll —this crossing is part of the road network and should be treated as such,” said Nikolai, who carried a sign that read “Keep your ferry, give us a bridge”.

But a recent government feasibility study concluded that replacing the Englishtown ferry with a bridge would cost taxpayers about $45 million.

However, that report, which was presented to the Victoria County municipal council in late March, estimated that over 75 years, the cost of constructing and maintaining a lift bridge over the 700-foot crossing would be about equal to that of operating a ferry.

But according to Nova Scotia Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal Minister Geoff MacLellan, it’s unlikely a permanent link will be built any time soon.

“People are concerned about the reliability and consistency of the Englishtown ferry, so our short-term goal is to put together a plan to revisit the issues, while we think the bridge is a long-term conversation,” MacLellan, who is MLA for Glace Bay, told the Cape Breton Post after the release of the report.

“But it provides information to the public to begin the conversation about the whole transportation mix for the Englishtown ferry and that region of Cape Breton.”

The crossing is currently served by the Torquil MacLean, named after the man who first provided service across the channel with a rowboat in the 1870s.

She has recently been out of service due to heavy ice in St. Anns Bay, but the demonstrators said conditions have improved to the point where the ferry should be back in the water.

Later in 2016 a study emerged about the feasibility of a bridge, as well.

About Jay Rawding

Jay is a local graphic designer, archer and nature enthusiast living in St. Ann's Bay.