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.


7 Responses to Islanders Meet With Transport Minister

  1. Ellie November 6, 2012 at 9:48 pm

    As we booked early this year, as we usually do, we are paying an extra £30 more than last year to travel from Lands End airport as the prices went down after we had booked for the same travel times as last year.
    Perhaps Lands End is subsidising the Exeter prices if they are cheaper than last year.
    We too are unfortunately making this our last holiday in Scilly after 12 years visiting because of price. In the present economic environment the operators should be lowering their fares to make sure seats are filled rather than charging more, then lowering, then who knows what!!!! The charges on other airlines do not change so often and many airlines charge less to go abroad. Skybus must know this, as we know people that have been the only ones travelling from Bristol, which is why they had to stop that service.
    We do hope they get some sort of help from the government with transport, but we agreed that only one travel operator could work against the islands and harm service to regular visitors. We would probably be more positive had we also paid less this year like Mats parents.

  2. Mathew November 6, 2012 at 2:54 pm

    As a regular traveller to the islands over the last decade, I have experienced all forms of transport available, and indeed all types of weather. The majority of this has been on Skybus, and I just wondered what exactly Skybus or the Steamship Company has done wrong in all of this? Like anyone, I have had a share of weather affected flights, but in my experience they have always done everything they can to help.

    I have been following the stories on this site for a while with a view to booking for next year, and I cannot get away from the vilification from some parties of a Company that is partly owned by islanders and to this point has not done anything wrong, other than operate in a tough environment (both physical and social).

    From what I understand from friends that live on the islands, Land’s End airport is being fully rebuilt for next season, and that over the winter the ship is being fully refitted internally for the benefit of passengers. To me that sounds like a company that is trying its best to deal with a situation that they had no part in creating.

    In terms of “charging what they like, when they like”, my parents are planning to return to Scilly again next year after a great week in June, and I was pleasantly surprised when they told me that the fare for Exeter was cheaper for 2013 than 2012.

    I fully intend to keep coming to your beautiful islands and just wish that everyone was a bit more positive and realistic about what can be done in the current economic environment.


    Mat Humphries

  3. Richard November 6, 2012 at 10:34 am

    Michael – there is a forum where you can record your thoughts and concerns you can comment on articles there – there are also contact details for members. I believe that a lot had been done to try and secure the helicopter service – but in this economic climate FRIST are doing everything they can to secure affordable, lifeline services for islanders and visitors alike.

  4. jane November 6, 2012 at 10:19 am

    I feel sadness that the Scillies are likely to become victim to their own independent success with transport links.

  5. Adam Morton,St.Martins November 6, 2012 at 8:49 am

    I take it by “self help” Mr Hicks refers to the deal Tresco estate and the IOSSco have for flights, apparently a plane and boat deal costing less than the helicopter did.Or is he suggesting we get together and float a new shipping company in competition with the IOSSco? Or do we form an association and get a deal with Skybus too?I think the winter sailings were terminated with the arrival of the GRY and the downturn in flower trade in an effort to cut costs.Winter sailings will never be viable for passengers only,Would not |FRISTs efforts have been better spent working with the IOSSco to find the most cost affective scenario.
    Lets face it we wont get a big upturn in numbers on the ship unless people hear that its a new boat and a lot cheaper even then it wont be an overnight transformation.In my opinion it would have to be an at cost opperation,hopfully with a govenment backed new ship to lower the maintainence costs,Shareholder interests would also have to be bought out.Cant see any of this happening but more likely than a subsidy.

  6. Michael Whitfield November 6, 2012 at 2:13 am

    It worries me that there is no forum being provided by FRIST or any other body where visitor views are solicited and recorded .
    I believe that though some 30% of visitors have been travelling by helicopter, there is an assuption that if the Steamship Co. provides more Islander flights & Scillonian sailings all will be well. I suggest that most of those flying on the helicopter specifically selected that form of transport and would not switch to a tiny less reliable fixed wing flight with no co-pilot or go back to horrendous & notorious passages by sea at potentially monopoly escalating costs.
    You may solve some business problems by harbour improvements at Penzance & St Mary’s and airfield improvements at Lands End, but if you lose 30% of the visitors, are those benefit real ? Also, no-where have I heard mention of the loss of direct trips to Tresco which may be of little interest to islanders or SkyBus but are very attractive to unseaworthy visitors !!
    I was a regular visitor by sea in the early 60s (I did fly in for my honeymoon in 1964 !) & continued visiting into the 70s until the costs for a family of 5 became prohibitive. After years of sailing a yacht out of Salcombe, in the 90s, now feeling able to afford helicopter flights (& refusing to contemplate Scillonian passages !) we returned to Scilly & have been regulars ever since ! We are apalled that our loyalty to BIH appear to be of no significance and that our future transport preferences & prospects are of no real importance in the debate about the future of transport to Scilly !!
    Is there chance that a helicopter service might still be offered ??
    Are there any crumbs of comfort aviailable to loyal visitors now ??
    K. regards, Mike.

  7. Ben November 5, 2012 at 3:26 pm

    I feel a monopoly is not a good thing for the islands and other avenues need to be looked into. Prices will increase for flights, as they have for many this year already, because with no market place the IOSSC/Skybus will be able to charge what they like, when they like, as seems to be the case this year. We have decided, after 33 years, that Scilly has now become too expensive for our holidays. Good luck in the future and I hope a cheaper air company will break the monopoly and bring prices back to a reasonable amount as we love these Islands.