Government Won’t Intervene In Scilly’s Transport Links

The Scillonian III

The government doesn’t intend to intervene and support travel to Scilly because the Steamship Company is operating commercially and there hasn’t been a ‘market failure.’

Yesterday the House of Lords discussed the campaign to bring lifeline status to our air and sea routes during a debate about the loss of the helicopter service.

The campaign group, Friends of Isles of Scilly Transport (FRIST), hope that travel subsidies can reduce islanders’ fares to match the lower costs Scottish island residents pay and could enable a year-round reliable service.

FRIST supporter, Labour’s Lord Berkeley, said that if evidence of last winter is taken into account, Skybus would not run fixed wing services for 22 days over five months. He also pointed out the cost of travel, stating that we have the fourth lowest wages in the UK and those who use the aeroplane service have to pay £140 return.

Lord Cameron of Dillington voiced concerns that businesses and the tourist industry here are in “rapid decline” when compared with the Scottish islands. The lack of a ferry service between November and March means that “running a business or leading a normal life is becoming a pretty precarious enterprise,” he said.

But Transport Peer Earl Attlee didn’t accept Lord Berkeley’s remark that the Steamship Company would soon have a transport monopoly.

That, he said, implied that there can be only one operator, but it is a free market and other operators can come in, he said.

He told the Lords that the government do not want to interfere because they want to see whether there will be a commercial solution to the problem. The Scottish islands’ travel subsidies were different because their services were more complicated and couldn’t be offered commercially.

The Earl said that the government recognises that many people regard sea passenger and freight services to Scilly as a lifeline, and the government is committed to ensuring that these continue.

Lord Davies of Oldham added that if Scilly is cut off for a number of days in winter, he hopes that the Minister will return to this issue and take some action.

Earl Attlee said Transport Minister Norman Baker takes the matter “very seriously” and is “on the case.”

FRIST and the Council will meet with him at the start of November and committee member Marian Bennett says she is very encouraged by Earl Attlee’s response and that of other peers.

Separately, Scilly’s Member of the Youth Parliament, Alice Chuter, has written to politicians highlighting younger islanders’ concerns over the future of transport links to the islands.

The 13-year-old Tresco resident has contacted MP Andrew George and Prime Minister David Cameron. Number 10’s communications unit says they have forwarded her letter to the Department for Transport.

Alice is currently awaiting their response and has offered FRIST support and representation of younger residents.


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