Public Meeting Tackles Medical Travel Issues

Tuesday’s meeting in the Old Wesleyan Chapel

Locals packed into the Old Wesleyan Chapel on Tuesday night to hear how the NHS, Council, LINk4Scilly and the Steamship Company aim to tackle transport challenges for less able passengers now British International Helicopters have stopped their helicopter service.

After Saturday’s final sailing of the season, refurbishment of the passenger areas of the Scillonian III will begin on Monday.

Company commercial manager Nick Sanders says some enhancements will make travel more comfortable for less mobile islanders and visitors. He said they’ll be installing a lift to make accessing the main deck easier for those with reduced mobility, together with anchor points for wheelchairs. The whole layout of the public areas will also be remodelled.

After the potential for a year-round boat service was raised, Nick said that would be down to economics. Plans were already in place to work on the Scillonian III this winter so it wouldn’t be available to sail anyway

St Mary’s resident Mary Ratcliffe was concerned that fixed-wing flights could be suspended for consecutive days in poor weather, stranding locals, but Mr Sanders said the weather was out of their control.

Merryn Smith wanted to know whether technology and navigational aids could be used so flights would be less susceptible to cancelation in reduced visibility. Nick said the location at Land’s End meant beacons would need to be out in the sea, although a GPS and satellite solution was being investigated. The ceiling for low visibility could be raised but pilots still need to see where they were going, he said.

Attendees wanted to know whether the grass runway at Land’s End could be hardened to prevent disruption from waterlogging. Nick said they’d look into that in the future, but the company felt there’d likely be objections.

Mr Sanders said the Steamship Company had found itself in a situation that it had never planned for, but they’d worked rapidly to deal with any additional demands since the end of the rotary service was announced.


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