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.


7 Responses to Government Won’t Intervene In Scilly’s Transport Links

  1. Fred October 25, 2012 at 1:41 pm

    Bear in mind that’s 22 days not including Sundays.

  2. Wyn Grant October 25, 2012 at 12:34 pm

    Correction: what I meant to say was that there was *no* market failure test in the 1950s or indeed until the 1990s.

  3. Daniel Lawson - Bell Rock Hotel October 25, 2012 at 12:34 pm

    The idea for the figures is to compare to BIH, who had informed us a few years back that their average no fly days due to weather was 15 per year.

  4. Mike Peaker October 25, 2012 at 12:33 pm

    According to the answer to Lord Berkeley’s question to the government about the reliabilty of air services to Scilly last winter there were 6 days on which all scheduled air services were cancelled, all for reasons of bad weather. There were a further 14 days on which there was “significant disruption to services”, all of which included fixed wing services; the helicopter was affected on only 6 of those days. The total of 22 is made up by one day when there was no helicopter flying due to technical problems, and one day when there was significant disruption to just the helicopter.
    Thus Sybus suffered “significant disruption” on 20 days of planned operations between 1Oct11 and 31Mar12. Possibly doesn’t sound too bad like that, but putting it another way it meant that on average, on 20 of the 26 weeks between October and April, there was one day in the week when there was serious disruption to fixed wing flights.

  5. Wyn Grant October 25, 2012 at 12:33 pm

    This does not surprise me. In the 1950s documents in the National Archives show government taking an unsympathetic stance and this was a time when they were more disposed to intervene. There was ‘green book’ market failure test which is a tough one to circumvent.

  6. Robin October 25, 2012 at 10:34 am

    I would certainly vote for Alice if she stands for Parliament when she’s older. Good luck with your work Alice!

  7. Daniel Lawson October 25, 2012 at 10:14 am

    Interesting to see the figures of 22 days of no flying last winter. Would you be able to find out Keri, what the average no flying figures are per annum is for Skybus? I emailed Skybus/Steamship a month or so ago, but never had a response.