VANCOUVER -- Uber and Lyft are finally on their way to Metro Vancouver.

The Passenger Transportation Board announced Thursday that it has approved ride hail companies Uber and Lyft to operate in B.C.'s Lower Mainland and Whistler.

At the same time, the PTB declined approval for ReRyde Technologies Inc. and Kater Technologies Inc. for several B.C. regions.

"British Columbians have been asking for new ride hailing services since 2012, but the old government failed to get it done. Our government did the hard work and delivered," Claire Trevena, B.C.'s transportation minister, said in a statement after the approvals were announced Thursday. 

"Over the last two years, our government has been diligent in developing a framework that puts passenger safety first, and we remained steadfast against pressures to abandon the safety measures we put in place. Road users can now be confident that B.C.'s ride-hailing services will comply with some of the highest safety standards in North America."

Those eager to start using ride hailing shouldn't open their apps just yet. The exact timeline of when the services will be available to the public was not immediately clear.

Uber said that there are still "administrative approvals" it needs before it can start operating. 

"The PTB's approval is one of the final steps before Uber is able to start providing reliable, safe, affordable rides in Metro Vancouver," Michael van Hemmen, Uber's head of Western Canada said in a news release. "We hope to launch very soon, once we have obtained a business licence from the City of Vancouver and purchased insurance from ICBC."

Lyft also said it's working with cities to get business licences.

"Once those are approved, we plan to announce our initial operating area, give our inaugural ride, and launch our service," Lyft's general manager for B.C. said in a news release. 

"We can't wait to see the new ways in which Vancouverites explore their city once they have a Lyft ride at their fingertips."

In a message on Twitter, Vancouver's mayor said the city is already prepared to give those licences.

"Our staff are so on top of this, we're going to be ready to issues licences TODAY," Kennedy Stewart wrote.

And ICBC told CTV News that insurance has been issued to both Uber and Lyft.

But the company sent out emails to users Thursday afternoon that read, "We have exciting news!"

The email told those who had already signed up for the app that the service would be available in Metro Vancouver soon.

Long wait for ride hailing

After the B.C. government introduced ride hailing last year, companies were able to apply to the PTB in the fall. 

However it still took months for Uber and Lyft to get approval from the PTB. First, Trevena told reporters in November that she was "very confident" ride hailing would be in place by Christmas. 

Then in December, just days before Christmas, CTV News received a statement from Trevena echoing those same words.

But by New Year's Eve, only one ride-hailing company – which plans to mostly operate in resort towns like Whistler – had received approval from the PTB. 

Restrictions a hurdle for drivers

Even though ride hailing has been approved and Uber and Lyft can soon operate in the Lower Mainland, the process for drivers to sign up with the service is more complicated than in other provinces. As a result, both Uber and Lyft said recruiting could be an issue. 

The process for drivers includes getting a Class 4 commercial licence, which requires taking a knowledge test, road test, vehicle inspection and a medical exam. 

"Because of the Class 4 licensing restriction we are seeing fewer drivers than we would see in a healthy ride sharing market like the others ones we operate in," said Lyft’s general manager for B.C., Peter Lukomskyj last October. 

"Getting drivers enrolled into the program and finding enough drivers will be a challenge here."

Vancouver ready for ride hailing

Along with approval from the province, ride hail companies also need a licence from municipalities.

In December, the City of Vancouver said it was ready to welcome ride hailing and that regulations were already in place. 

"City staff are already working closely with ride-hailing companies to ready their business licence applications for quick processing, and aim to issue a municipal business licence within three days of receiving a complete application," the city said in a news release at the time.

Mayor Kennedy Stewart reiterated that three-day timeline in a tweet Thursday. 

The city also said it was also working with other municipalities so ride-hailing companies can operate throughout the Lower Mainland. 

Licensing and vehicle fees for taxis and limousines are set at the same cost as ride-hailing companies in Vancouver. The annual licence fee is $155 and companies pay an additional $100 annual fee per vehicle. 

Wheelchair accessible and zero-emission vehicles have their vehicle fee waived, however. 

With files from CTV News Vancouver's Bhinder Sajan and Shannon Paterson