New FRIST Group To Spotlight Islands’ Transport Problems

A St Mary’s hotelier says it’s time for islanders to decide whether to carry on ‘whining’ about the need for subsidies for our mainland travel or make the changes needed to revitalise our flagging tourist trade.

Clifford Freeman, who owns Scilly Self Catering and St Mary’s Hall Hotel, is a board member of FRIST, standing for Friends of Isles of Scilly Transport, a joint Scilly and Penzance group made up mainly of hoteliers and tourism partnership members, as well as Tresco’s Robert Dorrien-Smith and maritime expert Sam Guy.

FRIST are using the Council’s Scottish Islands transport comparison report as the basis for lobbying government and the EU for reliable, cheaper transport links to Scilly. They want a year-round passenger boat service, but Clifford doesn’t agree entirely. He feels that the all-year freight service is the most important and he’d favour the retention of separate freight and passenger boats.

From Radio Scilly

Clifford Freeman talks to Keri Jones

Penzance Chamber of Commerce member Dick Cliffe has also joined. He said the Chamber is supporting the campaign because the Isles of Scilly economy is linked closely to the economy of West Cornwall and especially Penzance.

He once lived on Unst in Shetland where he says their short ferry journeys were frequent and cheap. He believes that, “the UK government is falling down in relation to EU policies on remote communities on the periphery.”

One of FRIST’s roles will be to put Scilly’s issues in the spotlight but getting agreement on what needs to be done amongst its members may prove a challenge.

Whilst some of its group wants to lobby to keep the helicopter service going, Clifford says it’s over and the islands should move on. He says the rotary service could even be blamed for the fall in numbers and feels it may have brought about Scilly’s decline with high fares.

Clifford says the helicopters have held rates high for the past 15 years and that may have influenced Skybus in setting theirs. And now Skybus are set to have an air monopoly, he hopes the fuller flights will bring ticket price reductions although he added there’s, “more chance of hitching a ride on one of the pink elephants that are flying by.”

“The future of BIH has been at thing of much debate for several years,” says Clifford. “To me, it seems that a mixture of unreliability, unviability and inefficiency are the real reason for the demise. Any business having to sell off its asset to continue trading is only putting off the failure date.”

FRIST say one of their first jobs will be to encourage visits by opinion formers to the Isles of Scilly, to get first hand experience of the current service.


15 Responses to New FRIST Group To Spotlight Islands’ Transport Problems

  1. Keri Jones December 3, 2012 at 1:32 pm

    Peter. IOW resident are complaining about their fares.

  2. An Off-Islander December 3, 2012 at 1:27 pm

    Just to correct the previous writer – I am from the Isle of Wight and they absolutely do moan about the cost. More so than here. A full priced return ticket for a foot passenger there is about £12 – £18 depending on which ferry you take. The return car (+4 passengers) journeys are around £60 return. The distances are far shorter, the route is commercially viable, there is no monopoly and the ferries operate easily all year round as seas are very rarely too rough.

    I have lived in both locations and travel to the IOW cannot be compared to travel to the IOS which is far more akin to the small Scottish islands – which have subsidy.

    The situation here makes IOW travel seem both luxurious and cheap.

  3. Peter de Snoo December 3, 2012 at 11:06 am

    Why should the Government and therefore the taxpayers pay for the transport subsidies to the Isles of Scilly ? The demand for transport has been generated by those living there and it is they who should sort out their own transport. The Channel Isles and the Isle of Wight does not moan about the transport costs to and from the mainland.

  4. George Kershaw August 21, 2012 at 11:04 am

    Well there clearly is plenty of money they would rather give it to St Helena though..

  5. Stavropol August 20, 2012 at 12:26 pm

    Leave the boat as it is, let’s face it, there is no money, the tourism sector is struggling, spare cash is sparse and no amount of begging for money from governments will result in any significant amounts. We live in a capatalist economy and there is no reasonable return, if any from such an investment.
    Rotary wing, again offers no return on investment, fixed wing yes because running costs per mile are much lower than rotary wing.

    Scilly needs to hope another fixed wing operator will take up the challenge of offering a good reliable service and the council can offer facilities which make the experience seamless and comfortable. By seamless mean aiding fixed wing access to the airfield in less optimal conditions making for more reliable service schedules. This perHaps is the one area funding may be sought successfully.

  6. Lin Treadgold August 20, 2012 at 10:12 am

    I am saddened at the demise of the helicopter. I was hoping next year to use it! With the price of flights from Southampton (because I live in Holland) I have decided to drive to Penzance in 2013. The helio would have been great after such a long drive. The fuel on these other faster boats costs a fortune. Stena closed down their Hoek van Holland route to the UK for that reason. So a hydofoil may not be green!

  7. Jeremy Kyle August 19, 2012 at 7:40 pm

    I reject your statement of the Steamship not having to provide a ‘decent’ service. They have been providing the islands with travel to and from the islands for over 80 years now and they have always strived to provide a decent service by putting on day trips, special rates to visitors and locals, double sailings when flights were cancelled etc… They must also have great faith in the Scillonian III if they are deciding to keep it until 2018 and spend another load of money on her again to keep the customer satisfaction at a decent level.

    This hydrofoil idea you have is also deluded. Not only is the thought of using a hydrofoil a bad idea due to weather limitations (as the Scillonian is), the schedule that you proposed will not work around the times of when the freighter, Gry Maritha, is unloading her cargo on St. Mary’s quay. The Gry is usually still docked at 0700, as is the Lyonesse Lady so where will this hydrofoil go at this time and who will check passengers in and load it? And let’s not forget about the quay modifications the Duchy would have to do to accommodate a different vessel like a hydrofoil.

  8. IanT August 18, 2012 at 3:04 pm

    Firstly Linda, although I’m happy to fly in anything that has a certificate of airworthiness, with the possible exception of a hot air balloon, many people are very reluctant to travel in a helicopter but jet off all over by fixed wing. I think the problem, if there is one, is the small size of the Islander and the difficulty getting in and out.
    Secondly Stuart, I may be wrong but I think hydrofoils are more susceptible to bad weather than a traditionally hulled ship. But, you could have a point about the impending monopoly.

  9. Patrick Brown August 18, 2012 at 1:48 pm

    Ships drydock for statutory surveys, any essential underwater repairs and to maintain the antifouling, paint and anode systems. The minimum time possible is spent in drydock, it is an expensive business. There should be no maintenance reason why the Scillonian III could not operate a year round service, except for a 2 or 3 week stoppage. Many ferries operate in winter, being subsidised by carrying freight in this period.
    Unfortunately hydrofoil and fast ferries operating in open sea areas are subject to weather limitations, the Condor ferries to the Channel Islands being an example.
    I support a year round passenger and freight ship service, ideally of course with a new purpose built ship and low fares to encourage visitors. I appreciate that sea sickness can be a problem for many, but there are antidotes and remedies available. If the problem is insurmountable then use a more expensive air link, which of course should remain.

    • Fiona Robson August 20, 2012 at 6:52 pm

      Clearly you have never suffered from sea sickness Patrick. Sometimes the antidotes and remedies just do not work! I watched one little girl in my charge continue to be sick for 5 hours after the boat trip was over and indeed this has happened to me on a couple of occasions.
      We do need both air and sea transport and we need a helicopter.
      Does Clifford Freeman realise that you cannot travel on the fixed wing aircraft after you are 21 weeks pregnant? I would not like to think of any full term pregnant lady having to travel to the mainland on the boat.

  10. Stuart August 18, 2012 at 10:43 am

    What we need is a Hydrofoil that can do the trip in 1hr:30
    It can start from St Mary’s every morning at 7am arriving at PZ 08:30
    return with day trippers/holiday makers at 09:30 arriving 11:00 and then do another trip in the afternoon departing at 16:00 arr PZ 17:30 returning 18:00 arr St Mary’s 19:30. Hydrofoils are used in the North sea and in Scotland and you can’t tell me the seas don’t get as bad up there as we have down here.
    However the ISSCO now has the monopoly so they have no incentive to provide a decent service

  11. Clifford freeman August 18, 2012 at 12:20 am

    With respect I didn’t say that the islands didn’t need an all round passenger boat service I also appreciate that not all people like to fly in an ideal world we would have all options,by the way I don’t have a cruiser but I like a lot of people do suffer from sea sickness and could not travel by sea in the winter but I do accept the issues not having a helicopter service will cause

  12. linda thomas August 17, 2012 at 6:57 pm

    I was enraged to hear Mr Clifford say we don’t need an all year round boat passenger service! Perhaps he has a cruiser to get him off the island if there are days of fog and he has a hospital appointment or a holiday booked! He probably isn’t frightened of flying but there are those poor souls out there who are and especially on fixed wing aircraft. These islands have taken a step backwards. There was always an all year round boat service to Penzance, which took freight as well as passengers, when I first came here nearly 40 years ago. Yes I agree we have to look to the future without the helicopters but without the helicopters it makes the need for an all year round boat passenger service all the more necessary

  13. Jeremy Kyle August 17, 2012 at 5:45 pm

    Unfortunately we are stuck with the Scillonian III until at least 2018 by the sounds of it. So having an all year round ferry service is not viable due to upgrades and maintenance that need to be applied to the ship in order to keep her sea worthy, which means having to take her into Dry Dock every winter. But yes, a fast, comfortable and reliable service on the water would be beneficial to people seeking lower fares to the islands and of course those who are not able to fly for whatever reasons.

  14. George Kershaw August 17, 2012 at 11:46 am

    I agree with a lot of what Mr Clifford is saying here.
    I hope that with the increased passengers Skybus will offer better deals,as there is no doubt in my mind that Skybus has set their pricing based on being slightly cheaper than BIH.
    A new ship with hopefully better comfort for passengers is a must.
    If this ship can also offer good value as well then the future will be looking bright.