MP Pushing For Public Service Obligation On Helicopter Route

The islands’ Member of Parliament has written to the new minister in the Department for Transport outlining an idea for securing a future helicopter service to Scilly.

Andrew George wants to formalise discussions with the new Secretary of State for Transport, Patrick McLoughlin, over the potential for a public service obligation for the rotary service.

If that happened, the lifeline service of the helicopters would be recognised with an EU-backed subsidy.

Andrew says one option could be to underwrite at least one daily service, six days a week during the winter.

Andrew feels that could offer parity with Scottish islanders who benefit from subsidies that guarantee their service and offer more affordable fares.

There are strict EU guidelines over whether support for a commercial operation gives unfair advantage to one operator over another. Andrew understands that if a PSO for a rotary service could be achieved, Skybus could also request one.

He feels that could be structured to apply solely to Land’s End services.

But achieving the subsidy could take years of negotiation with Europe and any operator would have to tender for the service contract. Officials would also need to be convinced that there was no knock-on effect of a subsidy. Supporting one air operator could, for instance, impact on boat usage and that could affect freight prices.

Marian Bennett of FRIST says they support the principle of Andrew’s request for a public service obligation designation on the route and they would like it to be applied to a rotary air service, as an immediate solution for a lifeline service over the coming winter.

FRIST hopes that this would be the start of a longer-term PSO for a reliable daily service all year round.

Andrew says he’s done quite a bit of work on this to support any new operators that wish to take on the service. He feels that it’s unlikely BIH will continue. There are, he says, at least two parties interested in running helicopters here although he admits he isn’t in direct contact with them.

An industry expert with local experience is involved in some of those discussions, he says.

Radio Scilly also understands a Midlands-based multi millionaire air operator is interested in all BIH’s operations but the islands’ connection would be attractive only if some form of subsidy were offered.


11 Responses to MP Pushing For Public Service Obligation On Helicopter Route

  1. Mike Vigar September 18, 2012 at 10:33 am

    A PSO could be a useful agreement to be awarded, however, unless the “rules” have changed, from my experience a PSO has to be tendered for every couple of years, and is normally awarded to only 1 operator! Either operator (BIH or Skybus) would have to withdraw from the route as they would not be able to compete with an operator holding the PSO. Once again, in my experience, the EU Commission is very reluctant to move on these matters, if, in fact, you could ever get them to make a decision! But good luck, it would be a great achievement.

  2. Adam Morton,St.Martins September 18, 2012 at 10:17 am

    I run a business and with little exception havn’t been able to put up my prices for about 5 years,there are holiday letts at£450 a week empty in may & september and hotels charging as little as £50 a night. Trouble is it costs £566 rtn flights to get here for a family of four and £286 by boat rtn. By contrast it appears to be £670 to fly Aberdeen- Orkney and back and £84 on the boat.Our groceries cost £266 a ton to freight in and they go up every year .What can we do?we have baisicly two months to make a living in the rest of the season is just trying to offer service for the few visitors there are here to try and keep them.IOSSco has had its best ever year tho and bought a dry dock, an airport,an engineering firm and two new ships so its not all doom & gloom!

  3. Dom September 18, 2012 at 8:31 am

    Sadly, I think I have made my last visit to the Scillies. For 10 years, I took my young family to stay for two or three weeks during the school holidays. Every year, the accommodation prices were hiked – way higher than self-catering costs anywhere else in the UK, and I mean ANYWHERE. And, of course, most of this money/profit goes into the pockets of property owners who don’t live on the islands…
    When the helicopter link goes, it will become unaffordable – except for much richer tourists. And I think the quality of accommodation will not attract enough of those.
    It is sad. It is probably a case of profiteering when times are good… the Golden Goose syndrome, even?

  4. jane September 17, 2012 at 9:58 pm

    As a long time visitor I agree that the loss of the helecopter will make me ( and probably many other visitors ) think twice. I have tried the boat, most unpleasant. I have flown by Skybus 7 times, grounded for 2 of these, transferred to boat, oh dear! ( although the staff are brilliant and try their hardest for the passengers). The helecopter has never let me down (in excess of twenty visits), delayed maybe, but no worse.
    The threat of being transferred to the Scillonian will make me say no.
    Any chance of a jet boat from Penzance?
    Are the flights from Exeter or Southampton any more reliable if it is Lands End that is the problem? ( Although I have been grounded at Newquay)
    Oh dear, looks like a favourite bolt hole gone

  5. Todd Stevens September 17, 2012 at 8:14 pm

    We all know why its expesive to travel here and without Government subsidies this will not change. The cost of going somewhere is irrelevent. It costs what it costs. Its cheaper to go to the USA? Then go to the USA. but who takes that attituide everytime they go on holiday? If you do-then you’d go to the same (ie -cheapest) destination every single time you went away. Do you do this?- No! – you go where you want to go whatever it costs. Scilly costs what it costs–just like everywhere else in the world.

  6. Stuart September 17, 2012 at 7:54 pm

    Felix, if they can use Hydrofoils in the North sea they can be used on our little bit of water; as to extra investment, closing down two under used routes and re-using the planes on the Lands end/Newquay route is not exactly investment, more a rearrangement of assets.
    ISSCO put their prices up earlier in the year so they wouldn’t be accused of profiteering when BIH pulled out, however see the above comments from genuine visitors.

    An all year round high speed boat is the solution, but again all the while the ISSCO has the monopoly they have no interest in investing when they can sweat the existing assets.

  7. Felix Picton September 17, 2012 at 7:40 pm

    HSC Manannan is a high speed catamaran not a hydrofoil, but I get the idea. I disagree about the nice weather aircraft. I don’t call 1500m visibility 20knots of crosswind and drizzle travelling at about 90 miles an hour to land on a 600m piece of tarmac nice weather. It was described to me as driving down the motorway at 90 miles an hour in drizzle with no windscreen wipers. The only issue the aircraft have is Land’s Ends lack of an instrument approach which I believe is being looked at. If you give them a chance you might just like it. I’m a convert since the Helicopter was regularly going wrong with no back up.

  8. Phil Cockrell September 17, 2012 at 4:56 pm

    Having enquired about the cost of flights on Skybus next July today I was ‘surprised’ to find out the ticket price has risen from £75 to £95 each way – a 26.7% increase. With the loss of the Helicopter service and the frankly basic and slow scillonian, these beautiful Isles are in serious danger of losing the tourist pound which is so vital. Given I could practically fly to the US for £200 each way – paying £95 to fly for 20 minutes feels like I am being ripped off. I appreciate the Scillies are remote and things do cost more but they are not immune from the economic storm raging around Europe. At this rate this could be my last visit and I am sure I am not alone in venting these concerns.

  9. Felix Picton September 17, 2012 at 2:30 pm

    Has Stuart been living in lala land. Steamship co has announced investment in refitting the Scillonian and a new terminal at Land’s End and another Twin Otter plus all the extras that go with this. An upgraded fire service at Lands End More pilots more ground staff, How much more investment do you want. Please bear in mind this is a private company. There are not many companies in the current financial era that are investing this much. And all this is happening whilst our MP and members of Frist do there best to keep an ailing private company afloat. Perhaps they would like to give the helicopter some of their savings to keep them flying once a day. As for Hydrofoils HA HA HA have you actually been on one that is capable of coping with the swells between here and the mainland, as well as fit into the quay at low tide. Anybody with any sea knowledge knows it won’t work. Keep dreaming though, perhaps we should build a bridge or tunnel. How about a ro ro ferry, then the tourists can bring their cars too.

    • adam September 17, 2012 at 3:37 pm

      HSC Manannan, Isle of Man. Needs less water under it than the bulcky Scillonian. 45mph. Maybe this one is a bit to big for IOS, but there are other models. Knowing IOS, they’ll never allow tourists to bring their cars luckily, but islanders could take theirs to the mainland, couldn’t they…
      And don’t forget that tourists happily pay cash for the beauty of IOS ! As one of these tourists for almost 20 years now, it was our last time this year, as the nice-weather-planes and the ugly boat are not a solution.. we’ll wait until a viable solution is found before we come again, meanwhile other islands with solutions wait for us around the world.. and I’m pretty sure I’m not the only tourist thinking that way, even more now that they axe BRS and SOU !

  10. Stuart September 17, 2012 at 12:48 pm

    Firstly a big thank you to Andrew George for all his efforts in trying to help the islands retain a helicopter service; I’m not sure that Andrews efforts are always recognised as much as they should be.

    Secondly, the ISSCO should replace all planes and the Scillionian with a hydrofoil that can do the journey in around an hour and then offer two return trips a day starting from the islands around 7:30am returning with day trippers around 9:00am and then back to the mainland at 16:00 arriving 17:30, returning to the islands 18:00 for 19:30.
    But of course the ISSCO has no interest in investing any money because it now has a captive market