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.

 



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