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Thompson entrepreneurs set to launch local bus service on Sept. 1

Local entrepreneurs are looking to fill the void Greyhound Canada will leave after closing down all bus operations in Western Canada by the end of October 2018.
Thompson Bus announcement
Thompson residents Jimmy Pelk (left) and Siddhartha Varma (right) address members of the municipal government and local business community at City Hall July 19, when they announced their intention to start a bus service between Thompson and Winnipeg, with limited operations beginning Sept. 1.

Local entrepreneurs are looking to fill the void Greyhound Canada will leave after closing down all bus operations in Western Canada by the end of October 2018.

During a July 19 press conference at Thompson City Hall, Jimmy Pelk and Siddharth Varma said they aim to solve this problem in the Hub of the North by establishing their own locally owned and operated bus company called simply Thompson Bus.

Although the finer details of things like scheduling and pricing won’t be finalized until August, the pair said their services will be rolled out in a limited capacity as of Sept. 1 and will be fully operational Nov. 1.

“Our company has very aggressive goals serving northerners to our best potential with a long-term plan,” said Varma, who works as a sales and leasing consultant at Twin Motors.

According to Pelk, who is the general manager of Twin Motors, their first priority with Thompson Bus is to fulfill the passenger transportation and freight shipping needs of the community, as well as expand on the scope of the services that have been offered by Greyhound in the past.

While this includes operation of transit routes around Thompson, Pelk said they also have their eye on establishing multiple drop-off points in Winnipeg.

“Our goal is to be able to deliver people right to the medical services in Winnipeg,” he said. “Our goal is to deliver people to surrounding hotels, to the international airport and also Polo Park.”

Pelk also didn’t count out the possibility of expanding their services to other northern communities like The Pas and Flin Flon or rehiring current Greyhound employees who will be losing their jobs in the fall.

“When you look at the current staff that are in place, there’s some very long-term employees with some great knowledge and experience in the transportation industry,” he said. “So for us to say ‘no’ to that would be crazy.”

Even though Kasper Transportation already announced on July 9 that they plan to establish a bus route between Thompson and Winnipeg, Pelk claims that Thompson Bus holds a considerable advantage over the Thunder Bay-based company, since local residents like himself and Varma have a much better understanding of the community’s unique needs.

“With a company that comes out of Thunder Bay, we feel, as entrepreneurs, that they’re not going to be able to provide the same level of quality of service that we can as northerners,” he said.

Despite this disadvantage, Kasper Transportation CEO Kasper Wabinsky told the Thompson Citizen on July 20 that he still plans to move ahead with establishing his own northern services, which are supposed to be up and running in Thompson by Oct. 31.

“I’ll do my thing, they can do their thing. We’ll see how it goes,” he said. “I don’t think, frankly, that people care whether it’s local or not. All they care about is that the service is provided properly for the right price.”

However, Pelk and Varma also flaunt the advantage of having pre-existing relationships with members of the local business community and municipal government, many of whom attended Thursday’s press conference at city hall.

“Over the next ten days we’re really going to work with community partners, with the city, with Thompson 2020, with economic development [officers], to understand the true need that the bus is required for,” said Pelk.

“Because we’re not doing this to have a bus service for two months or two years. We’re doing this to have a bus service and transportation service for generations to come.”

For more information about the services being offered by Thompson Bus, please direct your questions to thethompsonbus@gmail.com.