Islanders Meet With Transport Minister

A delegation of islanders has met the transport minister to argue the case for subsidising travel to and from Scilly, in line with the rates Scottish islanders pay.

The meeting was arranged by the Friends of Isles of Scilly Transport, or FRIST, although the minister only agreed to it if representatives of the local authority could be present.

Council chairman Mike Hicks says Norman Baker appeared, “pretty stout” in his objections to a grant in any shape or form adding, “if we expect a subsidy we’re going to be disappointed.”

Mr Baker explained that the Scottish model was historic and wouldn’t be repeated elsewhere.

Mike travelled to the 40-minute meeting in London on Friday, along with Cllr Dudley Mumford, MP Andrew George and FRIST members Sam Guy, Lord Berkeley, Marian Bennett, Robert Dorrien-Smith and James Francis.

Mike believes businesses need to get around the table and see what they can do for themselves. He’s suggesting a ‘self-help’ approach.

He also offered the minister a suggestion that freight could be subsidised, claiming that would put islands’ business on a parity with mainland firms and would help every resident.

Mike asked the minister to look into that subsidy and says Mr Baker nodded in reply. He feels confident there’ll be further discussions over that.

Cllr Hicks feels Skybus are addressing the upcoming challenges with the air link, and says the minister seemed well briefed on what the company was doing and the issues raised.

The delegation had taken a pack outlining some of the medical transfer issues and the minister was aware of concerns.

Year-round sailing was also addressed. Councillor Hicks says it’s “a nice wish list” item but previously locals didn’t use it, so they lost it.

He says the Steamship Company has discussed Sunday sailing next year.

Mike says he explained to the minister that the Council has an ‘open door’ to talk with the Steamship Company and that their chief executive Jeff Marston has ruled nothing in or out for the future sea link plans.

Scilly’s MP, Andrew George, confirmed that the minister offered to monitor the situation following the end of the helicopter service and to have future discussions as proposals came forward. But he says he made no more commitments.

Mike Hicks hopes Mr Baker will accept an invitation to experience travel to the islands.

 



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