FRIST Support Reaches 2,000 Mark

The Scillonian III

Friends of Isles of Scilly Transport member Marian Bennett says she wants more islanders and second homeowners to join the pressure group to show the strength of support for their goal of year-round, subsidised transport.

In just five months, FRIST has grown to 2,000 supporters, 800 of whom are on the islands.

Marian, who sits on FRIST’s advisory group, believes that the higher the number of supporters her group has, the less likely it will be that FRIST’s aims will be ignored by the government.

She accepts that the group has been vague about what they mean by a lifeline service, but it would be similar to what’s available to Scottish islanders.

Marian hopes that government cash will underwrite a Scillonian III replacement vessel and secure a year-round service.

She accepts the IoS Steamship Company may have to pitch to for that contract but feels they would be well placed to win the tender and could still operate commercially and retain a profit.

If there was a regular subsidised winter boat operating, air services could continue as a purely commercial service and Marian hopes additional operators could start flights.

From Radio Scilly

Marian Bennett

FRIST Advisory Group member, Marian Bennett, talks about their campaign.

Marian says FRIST wants to work with the Steamship Company and the Council to appear united in their goals when addressing the government.

But she says getting a meeting with the Council or the company has been challenging and it’s easier to talk with the Department for Transport than the Town Hall.

The Steamship Company says a year round service isn’t viable as when they last operated in the winter there was an average of nine people on each sailing.

But Marian believes that we shouldn’t be using arguments that applied in the late 80s and the poor weather of the last few days shows there is a need and more residents and visitors are travelling outside summer now.

She says rural bus services often run with very low numbers for the very reason that they’re subsidised.

Some islanders have voiced concern that the extensive promotion of Scilly’s transport problems that FRIST has arranged may dissuade potential tourists. But Marian disagrees and says they are only concerned with highlighting out-of-season problems.

She adds that the high cost of the fares is the thing that’s really putting people off coming here.

The transport minister, Norman Baker, has consistently said that the commercial sector needs to sort out Scilly’s transport problems. Marian says FRIST has invited him to visit and see the problems first hand.

But Marian says he still represents one of their biggest hurdles to overcome.

She says FRIST wants to talk with other ministries, as our travel challenges impact on additional aspects of life. They have contacted health minister Anna Soubry to correct what they feel is misinformation given about ferry services.

Marian also wants a community consultation over a new boat to replace the Scillonian III to start now. She says time is running out for planning and building a new vessel by 2018, when the current boat’s service could end.

It will, she says, take a year to discuss, a year to design, finance and tender the project, then a further two years to build it.

Marian also feels there needs to be a discussion about a roll-on, roll-off ferry option. It has been dismissed previously because of local objections but it wouldn’t necessarily be the sort that brings in lots of visitors’ vehicular traffic, she says.


28 Responses to FRIST Support Reaches 2,000 Mark

  1. Mike Peaker January 9, 2013 at 10:52 am

    Thank you, Stuart, for posting the details of your frustrations in trying to get to a medical appointment at Treliske on a Monday. I expect there have been many others who, for different reasons, have recently had appointments on the mainland that they have been late for or been unable to keep. FRIST needs as many case histories as possible with which to build the case for a reliable, affordable, year-round lifeline service to and from the islands. If you are willing to tell your story please send it to FRIST at

  2. Dick Cliffe January 8, 2013 at 11:58 pm

    Re Adam Morton. A couple of extra points:

    The Pentalina (Caithness/Orkney) is a fascinating vessel. It has a very shallow draft.
    It operates at 16 knots for fuel efficiency so does not offer improved journey time but presumably a much better ride.. There has been a retreat in the popularity within the ferry industry from high speed twin hulled vessels because of their sky-high fuel consumption and sustained high fuel prices.

    The reason why the Scillonian soldiers on is because it is difficult to develop a commercially viable business case to replace it because returns on the route are modest (from IOSSCO published accounts) and would not support a lot of borrowing. Harbour limitations mean you need a specially designed vessel or you take the risk of modifying an existing second vessel of standard design and hope it works and satisfies MCA licencing requirements. Thanks to the IOSSCO refit the problem of replacing the vessel is postponed to 2018. The problem of financing a replacement vessel has some similarities with 1977 when the Government stepped in to help with with an interest free loan covering 60% of the purchase price of the Scillonioan III. (loan since repaid).

    Dick Cliffe

    • Adam Morton,St.Martins January 9, 2013 at 11:39 am

      Thank you for posting the “Scottish report”. My reasons for suggesting the Pentalina as an example are that it is not a high speed cat . The catamaran design can cause greater efficiency due to its waterline length. The Pentalina does have around 4000hp, nearly double scillonian III but then in effect it is nearly twice the size with its 20m beam. The company that designed her does have others with quite remarkable performances for power. I am aware as to why the Scillonian soldiers on, mainly because she is the cheapest boat for the job but I am unsure as to wether much of her refit has anything to do with the MCA. Furnishings and lift will have little to do with structural integrity! Also despite this the capacity has been drastically reduced. I can’t agree with your analysis of the industry so far as twin hulls go. I think that due to a lack of foresight ,understanding and an unwillingness to try they are slow catching on in this country. In the rest of the world they are becoming the norm for passenger transport. In poor conditions they may in fact be worse than a monohull but for much of the year the conditions aren’t that bad during which time the comforts would be vastly improved. Even so when compared to the new breed of Scottish ferries even high speed cats perform favourably. MV Hamnvoe has 10.000hp and manages 19 knots. Whilst a little larger than the Caithness ferry and our potential new one she represents the gas guzzling inefficiency that neither the government, environment nor these islands can sustain. In order to gain any notable performance in conditions for passengers a mono hull ship would need to be drastically bigger for which the size of the islands trade could not warrant or support. There is also the question of cost. A specially designed shallow draft multipurpose vessel will cost a premium .MV Hamnvoe £28m ,Scillonian IV £24m? Pentalina £10-15m . Catamarans are naturally shallow draft vessels and an “off the shelf” solution has cost saving advantages possibly even enough to allow two vessels for the price of one for a really passenger friendly service? I have not enquired about other designs but it is possible that a little size or weight carrying capacity could be sacrificed for speed. Mv Pentalina is configured for 50 cars and 350 pax which obviously would be of no use to us. I would draw your attention to the Scottish islands federation ferry review.
      I am not saying this is the solution but I don’t think we should be blinkered to innovation and stepping out of our comfort zone if we want a perceivable difference. I think if we cannot improve the experience for passengers for the amount of money spent it is hardly worth doing. I appreciate that much of this has little to do with subsidising the rout but unless the visitor experience is improved (as in not spewing) I don’t think you could pay a lot of people to use it!

  3. Dick Cliffe January 8, 2013 at 11:05 pm

    Re: Fran Grottick. 8 Jan. The original version of the “Comparative study of IOS and Scottish Islands” was dated April 2012 but it was found to contain errors (relating to Scillonian fares for islanders who join the loyalty club if I remember right). The errors came to light because Earl Attlee quoted from the document in response to a House of Lords question. The document was corrected and re-issued in Jul 2012 as a result.

    Dick Cliffe

  4. Adam Morton,St.Martins January 8, 2013 at 9:54 am

    Stuart; I should imagine the actual Island trade would account for little more than about 2% of the current trade to which end an air service works better , an otter airplane will probably use less fuel ,less manpower and less maintenance for small numbers. Like it or not it is the visitors that keep the passenger service going ,allowing many islanders travel club status. I agree with looking at the possibility of reversing the rout as this would tie in with visitor travel arrangements and allow a short time on the mainland for locals if the service left Scilly at 9.00am return 3.00pm but this would do away with all day trip trade unless a very fast expensive vessel were used or two ships to allow two trips a day. It’s a tricky situation as to prove we ken ineed lifeline status, the company would have to go bust. The fact that most islanders choose to fly even when the boats available suggest it is affordable. The IOSSco have just inherited BIHs trade so in fact their future looks secure for the moment. The lack of a new passenger ferry will I think lose us another 20% of our trade as despite the company’s efforts many will have to travel at inconvenient times putting off even more. The combinations of a dwindling trade anyway, less availability, high fare costs and the reduction of routs on the air service can do nothing else! For the government to consider us for a replacement ship and or a subsidy FRIST would have to prove that enough people would use it to be worth subsidising, by the same tof that were the case we wouldn’t need it. It is passenger numbers that make a service viable. The IOSSco has evolved as it has for a reason ie costs. I was hoping that the company would use its funds and another share issue to put up half the money for a new vessel (hopefully a catamaran) and the government would put up the rest. Such a vessel new shouldn’t cost much more than £8-10M and would substitute width and stability for length and the necessary quay works. A ferry with a comfortable ride and cut price fares for off peak times would I think do more for business and be more achievable than anything else. I don’t think people would mind the £97 fare so much if they got here quickly or the time taken without the pitching and rolling or either without the fare cost! We just need something! Quickly! If the Co can get the hard runway at L E it should solve most of the problems we have had this winter. A small helicopter like Trinity house use cannot be that expensive and could surely help with the mail and hospital patients in the mean time? Normally the Ship won’t be in dry-dock all winter which should leave it available in emergency’s? FRISTs ideal scenarios are all very well but we need something in this lifetime. Given that Mrs Bennet ;can’t get the Co and council together and she is a councillor and two other councillors at least are steamship shareholders and ex directors and that the government was aware of this same situation nearly thirty years ago and have consistently reiterated their policy on subsidies, we have to ask ourselves what the real chances of success are and in what timeframe? SEATRANSPORT of Australia offers a kit cutting service to save time. They designed the catamaran ferry PENTALINA which works the Pentland firth rout, is privately owned and undercuts the £10m subsidised rout. They charge £14 single fare and have been going 4 years or more, so it must be a good bit of kit.

  5. Fran Grottick January 8, 2013 at 7:50 am

    The Council report, “Comparative study of IOS and Scottish Islands” was dated April 2012, and was available as a hard copy
    from the Town Hall afterthat.
    I have a copy if anyone would like to see it.
    Presumably, more could be obtained.

  6. Dick Cliffe January 8, 2013 at 1:06 am

    Re: Steven’s comment. Do not read too much into my comment. The principle is define the service required and then seek a solution not the otherway around. If the solution proves too expensive then you have to go back and revise your service to one you can afford.

    This may mean some individuals who need a high level of (transport) service (say – because of medical problems) cannot continue to reside on Scilly. If there is no Govt support the transport service is going to be severely limited in the winter months due to commercial realities. The transport ‘needy’ will be obliged to move to the mainland.

    This is why the winter transport crisis is a threat to the current community. If a solution cannot be found then certain categories of individual will find themselves under pressure to leave.

  7. Dick Cliffe January 8, 2013 at 12:37 am

    Apologies for the broken link.
    You can find the document here:

    This document (dated July 2012) may no longer be current and any enquiries about its status should be directed to the IOS Council. It is however an important historical piece of work on the ongoing issue of IOS transport links with the mainland.

  8. Steven January 7, 2013 at 8:17 pm

    Stuart, Dick defined a life line services as

    “For ‘lifeline’ read ‘essential’ service – services essential to sustain the community and its economy”

    What is more important to the Islands than the Tourism trade?

    And just how many Islanders want to spend 5 hours travelling on the ship during rough winter weather to a hospital appointment? Would it be any more than a backup for when air travel wasn’t possible?

    Also even with a double sailing visiting medical professionals would still be unable to use the ship for day visits.

    It would be interesting to hear the Steamships views on a double sailing of the ship – I strongly suspect it would turn what is now at least a profitable service during the summer months into a year round loss maker.

  9. Dick Cliffe January 7, 2013 at 6:24 pm

    I can recommend the Council’s Scottish Report which includes details of the services provided to comparable islands in Scotland and Northern Island. Islay is a good example as the journey by sea is of similar duration.

    “Scottish Report” IOS Transport – Comparative Study of the Isles of Scilly and the Scottish Islands” (108 pages 6.2 MB)

    Dick Cliffe

    • Nobby Nobbs January 7, 2013 at 8:39 pm

      Broken link
      or the council have removed the document from their website

  10. Stuart January 6, 2013 at 7:24 pm

    I needed to go to Treliske for a medical at 12:00 monday, so knowing how unreliable Skybus has been of late I booked a flight out on Saturday because I just couldn’t trust Skybus to be flying on the monday. I booked a return flight for 16:00 from lands end for the monday, as this just gives me time to complete the appointment and then drive back down to Penzance in time to catch the 15:00 pick up.

    So there I am sitting in St Mary’s airport on saturday morning waiting to fly out when at 11:30 I get a call from Skybus at Lands end telling me that my flight on monday will now be going from Newquay and will be leaving at 15:15, with a 13:30m pick up from Penzance.
    I asked the Skybus representative how I was expected to complete a hospital appointment at 12 (when they always run late) and then get down to Penzance by 13:30 in time to get the bus back up to Newqauy. “Not my problem sir” was the reply.

    The fact that they rang me at 11:30 on saturday and the appointments dept doesn’t open uintil 09:00 on the monday is to put it frankly bloody annoying!!!!
    Now through no fault of my own I have to pay for the car hire to pick up from Newquay, or if I miss the flight, another nights accomadation and then the cost of rebooking my flight, (if I can get a seat) all through no fault of my own.

    I rang Andrew May the Steamship chairman and complained in I think what was quite a resonable tone considering the circumstances. I asked to be compensated for my additional costs but Andrew explained that if they reimburssed me they’d have to do it for everyone and it would cost them a fourtune. So I end up financing Skybus’s incompetence.

    How can anyone make plans.
    The problems with Lands end are not my problems, they are the Steamship companys problem but because the Steamship company has a monopoly they can provide a crap service. I wouldn’t mind having to fly back from Newquay as long as it was at the original time of 16:00 and/or they’d told me on friday, not saturday. At the very least compensate me for my inconveinince and additional expenses.

    People need to be able to plan trips to the mainland and Skybus need to stick to their timetable regardless of which airport they fly from.

    • Steven January 7, 2013 at 9:04 am

      I agree, people need to be able to plan and Skybus changing times makes this totally impossible.

      However a 12.30 appointment on a Monday is a perfect example of how a year round boat would be unable to provide a true lifeline link. A person would be required to spend three nights away from home for a short hospital trip if they were to have to use a boat.

      • Stuart January 7, 2013 at 12:41 pm

        Unless the boat started from St Mary’s with a 07.00 outward and a 19.00 return. As a lifeline service that served the intersts of the islanders rather than the interests of the ISSco who will only be interested in day trippers.

        • Steven January 7, 2013 at 4:01 pm

          That might work for Islanders, but what about the holiday makers we desperately need to attract?

          I can’t imagine many people would enjoy the idea of not arriving at their accommodation until after 10 o’clock at night or having to be packed up and left by 6 in the morning. Would it even be safe to expect people visiting the Off-Islands to arrive on Off-Island quays in the dark?

          And what about the accommodation providers, carriers and taxis …? Do you fancy working until nearly midnight 6 days a week (or 7 with Sunday sailings) waiting for guests to arrive only to have to be up at 5 o’clock the following morning to get guest out in time for the early boat?

          • Stuart January 7, 2013 at 6:00 pm

            Is this a life line service for the benefit of the islanders or service for the benefit of guest houses and taxi drivers ?

            The boat could do a double sailing, one for us 07.00/return 19:00 and one at the usual time 9am return 16.00 for the tourists.

  11. Dave January 6, 2013 at 12:04 pm

    I totally agree with Colin Carruthers, But I would wholeheartedly support anything that Mrs Bennett can do to help to bring down the cost of inter-island (tresco and Bryher) boat fares, that would be a good start as at the moment the wealthy time sharers on Tresco are getting cheaper transport than the locals, even the taxi from the airport to the quay!!

  12. Keri Jones January 5, 2013 at 9:41 pm

    Hi Dick
    Happy New year.
    “Vague” was Marian’s own word that she used to describe Frist’s definition of lifeline service. . Marian used the word in the introduction recording we did . That piece wasn’t included in the finished piece because Marian had to stop as a background noise distracted her and she asked us whether she could restart that part of the recording because of the noise on the street. Regards Keri

  13. Dick Cliffe January 5, 2013 at 7:30 pm

    The reason why FRIST is ‘vague’ (to quote the article) about the definition of the lifeline service is because it is the ‘service’ that matters not the ‘method’ of achieving it. However, if you look at the solutions in place for similar sized islands in the UK and Northern Europe, a subsidized ferry service has turned out to be the cost effective solution and to ignore this reality would imply we thought Scilly needed a special ‘gold plated’ solution with the extra costs picked up by the DfT.

    Establishment of a subsidized lifeline service (typically by sea) does not precluded public/EU investment in additional air services where there are wider economic benefits to be gained. The public investment tends to be into infrastructure rather than operating subsidies. Where there are fare subsidies (outside of the lifeline service) then often entitlement is restricted.

    The FRIST campaign is for a reliable, affordable all year round lifeline service. For ‘lifeline’ read ‘essential’ service – services essential to sustain the community and its economy. It is essentially the same as the longstanding IOS Council policy which, until recently, fought to re-established an all year round ferry service. The only significant difference is FRIST’s emphasis on the ‘affordability’ of the service and acknowledgement that an operating subsidy is unavoidable now that the Govt has decided not to make a grant towards a new vessel (part of the RP package).

    It is rather obvious (unless your head is stuffed into sand) that essential services for the Isles of Scilly have not been adequately maintained this winter, the first winter without the BIH helicopter service. I know of no comparable island community in the UK (or Northern Europe for that matter) that manages to sustain acceptable lifeline services on a strictly commercial basis without any Government help. A DfT experiment is underway with Scilly – I think we know the result already.

    Dick Cliffe
    Penzance (ex Unst, Shetland Islands)
    FRIST Advisory Group Member

  14. Steven January 5, 2013 at 2:13 pm

    This year we have had 4 appointments with visiting medical professionals cancelled. On top of this have had another six appointments which have had to be cancelled by mainland companies. This all occurred in the “summer” whilst the boat was running.

    The boat is totally unsuitable for day appointments in either direction. What the Islanders (and visitors) really need is air transport which can land in low visibility.

    I really wish Marian (and FRIST) would direct their considerable efforts in this direction and not towards a boat which almost nobody will use (out of choice) for nearly half the year.

  15. Charlie Bennett January 5, 2013 at 2:05 pm

    I feel I should just point out that I do know Marian quite well(!) and she enjoys flying!!

    Members of FRIST advisory group along with the MP Andrew George are still pursuing a helicopter option. They are also fighting for a subsidised, all year round sea link service – they are working towards securing the best possible transport links to the islands, both for locals and visitors.

  16. Colin Carruthers January 5, 2013 at 12:21 pm

    I’m not going to get behind an organisation that cannot really describe what it is they do.

    I’d rather get behind Andrew George MP and ask him the best way forward, be it writing letters to the Prime Minister, or signing a petition, but I’m not going to blindly support FRIST.

    What Mrs Bennett does is a bit near-to-the-knuckle in my opinion. She is a councillor and this sort of work should be done by Council officers, surely?

    As a person in the community, I vote for councillors. In turn, I want/expect the councillors to respond to community issues/fears and look to solve them. What I don’t expect is for the process to go full circle and then being asked by the councillors to ‘back’ something that we’ve already highlighted as being an issue, what’s the point in that?

    Don’t get me wrong, I like the sentiment behind FRIST, I think. But it all seems a bit…personal? Does the Council endorse it? Does the MP endorse it? Did the Council vote Cllr Bennett onto the group? No, they didn’t. So, to me, it seems a little like a personal crusade by Cllr Bennett, and that sends out all the wrong messages, it paints the Council as being almost useless in this whole process, and I just cannot accept that as being true. And, if it IS true, then it’s the fault of Councillors, surely?

  17. ritchie January 5, 2013 at 10:54 am

    I applaud Marion for her work in this with FRIST and she is right a boat is what we need 12 months of the year, and it needs to be subsidised by our government – end of ! A helicopter would be nice, icing on the cake, but the cake aint made yet. People need to focus on customer service, value for money and improvement in services localy to bring Scilly around slowly to increase numbers coming – and then when that happens we may see other operators interested. Its the little things that make a big difference, recylcing, local produce a tidy town with tidy paths and keep people informed – encourage providers to get on the webb.

  18. Sue January 5, 2013 at 8:07 am

    Scilly has just got to have a helicopter! At least it can land at Lands End, waterlogged or not!

  19. Greg January 4, 2013 at 1:11 pm

    I don’t know why the IOSSC can’t just buy a smaller commuter ferry just to operate during the months that the Scillonian III is out of service. We only need something that can carry up to, say, 60 passengers and is capable of handling dodgy sea conditions. It doesn’t have to be restricted to the winter months either, it could run all year round if needs be.

    • Maggie January 4, 2013 at 5:16 pm

      Agree with Greg, Bryher boats does it with their little jet boat regularly so why doesn’t the Steamship get something like it but a bit bigger? BUT we should not give up on trying for a heli service, I think Frist is set on the boat option and anyone that knows Marian Bennett will know that she hates flying.

      • Adam Morton,St.Martins January 5, 2013 at 10:01 am

        It would be a big risk for the company considering it would be redundant if someone does start a helicopter service. People need to remember that the jet boats still take 2 hrs in calm weather. Mostly they are used in foggy conditions which generally aren’t too windy. I suspect one of these wind farm service cats could do it but at the same cost as flying without the comfort. It could be the answer when there’s no flying but sure as hell would lose money! Perhaps a better option would be purchasing a slightly bigger replacement for the GRY and putting a cabin for 25 or so on it. This would give it the insurance of the freight given that it would only get used by a few desperate people. The Gry now carries 6 apparently because the extra expense in lifesaving /MCA equipment for more isn’t worth it. I would think it worth the councils while subsidising the extra cost as a standby? And the company’s for insuring its freight carrying future. A second hand freighter could probably be got for about a million and a high speed cat probably wouldn’t cost much less but probably a bigger financial risk? It could solve some of the winter travel problems but won’t help with the summer tourist season. Sorting the winter passenger & freight trade would leave options more open for the summer passenger trade. Just a thought!

  20. Nobby Nobbs January 4, 2013 at 12:21 pm

    I fink that the council should use every ounce of influence it has with government to get a subsidised all year round boat service.
    This would mean the route or subsidy going out to tender.
    The ISSCO could make a bid but would hopefully lose out to another company that provides a better service.

    The trouble is there are too many people in influential positions on these islands that are (or have been) on the board of directors of the ISSco, so decisions are not always made in the best interests of the islands or islanders but in the best interests of the ISSco shareholders,

    If we can get a subsidised service then whoever runs it would be running it our interests not the interests of the shareholder.
    I wish First every success in getting a subsidised transport link and if the Steamship co loses out I certainly wouldn’t be sorry.