BC Ferries says it will make cuts to several routes, reduce seniors' discounts and consider slot machines in some vessels in hopes of raising revenue for the money-losing venture.

In a series of cost-cutting measures announced Monday, ferry brass said the company is committed to finding $54-million in efficiency improvements by 2016, including allowing gaming on some key routes.

“The B.C. Coastal Ferries Service has been wrestling with cost pressures for over 20 years. Today we’re striking a balance. We’ve made tough decisions to help address existing pressures on the affordability of the service,” said Transportation Minister Todd Stone.

BC Ferries says it needs to find $18.9-million in savings over the next two years in order to meet the requirements under the current price cap.

A total of 6,895 round trips will be slashed by the end of 2016 – which amounts to eight per cent reduction in sailings. Thousands will be cut on minor routes including sailings to Bowen Island and the Sunshine Coast, but the Gulf Island and northern routes will be hit the worst. Cuts will be implemented in several phases.

In April 2014, BC Ferries will reduce sailings on the minor routes and on higher-cost northern routes.

Stone said most cuts will affect minor routes with ridership of less than 20 per cent. It’s estimated these changes will account for $14-million in net savings.

Also in April, the free ride for seniors runs out. The current 100 per cent passenger fare discount for seniors travelling Monday to Thursday will be reduced to 50 per cent for minor and major routes. There won’t be any change to the current 33 per cent discount offered to seniors on northern routes.

Fares are slated to rise four per cent overall in April 2014, and another 3.9 per cent the following year. Stone said the rate raises are projected to match inflation.

B.C. is also mulling introducing a pilot gaming program on major routes between Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland.

“The pilot project would be implemented on BC Ferries' busiest route between Swartz Bay and Tsawwassen. If successful, gaming revenue would help reduce the pressure on fares with net revenues reinvested into the ferry system to support general fares,” Stone said.

The B.C. Lottery Corporation will own the slot machines and BC Ferries staff will be trained to monitor them.

B.C. taxpayers have contributed $180-million to BC Ferries funding this year alone – and a total of nearly $1.4-billion over the last 10 years.

Last week, BC Ferries announced it would slash bonuses for its executives, a $1-million savings annually.