Council Says It’s Doing All It Can Over Transport Issues

The Scillonian III

The Scillonian III

The chair of the Transport Committee, Cllr Dudley Mumford, has said the Council is doing everything it is legally empowered to do to secure transport links to the Isles of Scilly.

In a three-page statement, the Council has highlighted it’s involvement in recent activities including the £8m improvement project on St Mary’s quay, the £4.4m project to develop St Mary’s airport and the support being offered to the Steamship Company in the design of hardened runways at Land’s End.

But they admit the Council has limited powers as it’s not a Transport Authority.

The Council says the Government has made it clear that there will be no fare subsidies unless the Steamship Company ceased operations, and that’s something they would never wish to happen, as it would devastate our Islands economy.

The statement is a clear side-swipe at campaign group FRIST, who have been campaigning for subsidies on the routes to Scilly, similar to those enjoyed by the Scottish islands.

FRIST recently criticised the Council for what they say is their failure to see that the current status quo during the winter months is unacceptable.

They’ve also expressed frustration at being unable to meet with councillors, saying the first meeting, planned for mid January, has been deferred until February at the request of the Council

But the Council says it is having fortnightly meetings with transport operators and health bodies to address all issues as they arise.

And it is concerned that the expectations of the community and visitors have been raised over the likelihood of cheap, subsidised fares to the islands. They express unease that some of the publicity around the transport issues are having a negative effect on potential visitors.

Councillor Mumford said: “We are continuing to work in partnership to deliver new Quays and refurbished terminal and resurfaced runways at St Mary’s.

“The Council has already sourced central Government funding to develop plans for a hard runway at Land’s End and is helping the Steamship Company access grants to help pay for the runway. This is in line with the amount of support we would give any operator who wished to meet our islands’ transport needs.

“At the same time the Council and the Steamship Company are working together with the CAA on improved navigational aids which should allow flying in reduced visibility conditions”.

A spokesperson for FRIST said they would be issuing a response ‘in due course.’

However, Penzance Chamber of Commerce chairman, Dick Cliffe, who is also a member of FRIST’s advisory group, said the Chamber’s view is that the infrastructure improvements are necessary but not enough to sustain the community and its tourism based economy.

The chamber believes it’s impossible for the Steamship Company to replace the Scillonian without public help and the profit made by the company would not support the required level of commercial borrowing.

They say the Council’s press statement suggests complete acquiescence to the Government’s initial rebuff over subsidies. And they believe the Council is showing blind faith in modest infrastructure improvements and the Steamship Company’s ability to pull ‘a large rabbit out of its small hat’ when the Scillonian finally expires.


10 Responses to Council Says It’s Doing All It Can Over Transport Issues

  1. ISLANDER January 25, 2013 at 5:13 pm

    Nobby dont know how long you’v lived on these islands but its not just some councilors/steamship that people dont trust. dont forget councilor/Frist. councilor Bennett got along way to go to earn trust. i also think some need to take their heads from out their backsiides and put their personal issues to one side.. for some that will be difficult because of trust issues. and although Nobby alot of what you say is right , there is alot you say !! as the saying goes talking out of your — my dear !!
    but i do and i expect others find you entertaining… like alot of us not always getting the facts right …

  2. Pat Hicks January 24, 2013 at 11:26 am

    Well said. There is no one to blame for the situation we are in
    and what hopefully is happening is the key stakeholders are working together to sort it out. everyone needs to have some patience.. as i say spring is around the corner, summer is on the way!!. and what better place to live than here on the islands..
    on another note. i had an email about HEART’s next public meeting on the 6th Febuary where some councilors will be attending to answer questions. Hopefully it will be a good chance for everyone to go to and get some answers…
    SO BE THERE ..

  3. Joby Newton January 23, 2013 at 3:07 pm

    The whole definition of a ‘monopoly’ keeps going back and forward.

    In economic terms the IOSSC is a monopoly whilst in legal terms they would argue they are not which is where the ‘sole provider’ quotes come from.

    I think everyone agrees that transport needs to be improved and the current uncertainty is definitely putting many people off going to Scilly.

    There are a myriad of reasons for many of the issues involving the Islands at the moment and there needs to be less of a blame culture and more of a clear strategic plan and recognition of problems and potential solution, drawn up by all of the key stakeholders.

    • Nobby Nobbs January 24, 2013 at 12:57 pm

      Good luck with that one!

      In an ideal world your right of course and, one would expect the relevant party’s to come together in the interests of the islands, however, as I’ve said before, all the time you have councillors who are also directors of the Steamship company, the motives of said councillors will be questionable.
      After all, it’s not in the interests of the ISSco to ‘have’ any competition.

  4. Steveatt January 22, 2013 at 9:53 pm

    Don’t usually agree with you nobby but well said.

    Wasn’t there a rival freight service for a year or two that issco managed to put out of business? Probably around 20 years ago!

  5. Katie F January 21, 2013 at 6:27 pm

    A ‘ro-ro’ ferry would mean that we would all have to MOT our cars; I think that the additional cost of this would negate any savings on freight! Furthermore, I wouldn’t necessarily encourage visitors to bring their cars given that the increased volume of traffic is one of the most regularly cited reasons for dissatisfaction given by tourists commenting on this site and elsewhere. However, I completely agree that much of the ISSCo’s freight policy is ludicrous, particularly the requirement to have goods delivered to PZ quay with their [the Steamship Co’s] address on – there must be a more viable/sane solution than this current set up?!

  6. local January 21, 2013 at 8:16 am

    the steamship DO NOT have a monopoly.

    (a monopoly is when they are legally allowed to run as sole operators)

    they are the only provider and there is nothing to stop another firm coming into the route who could undercut prices ,or just run at profitable times.

    remember the fair island trading ? came into the route , ran with much lower overheads causing a price war…thankfully for the islands they went out of business just before the ISSCO went broke.
    that would have resulted in NO shippping service at all

  7. Nobby Nobbs January 20, 2013 at 9:05 pm

    All the while the Steamship company has the monopoly the service will be poor, the prices high and the government won’t step in to help.

    The Steamship company have around £4m in the kitty to replace the Scillionian, you’d have thought they’d have started saving a long time ago so they could replace ‘their’ assets, but it would seem that they expect the usual government handout that they’ve received everytime they need to replace the ship.
    If you were a taxi firm would you expect the government to replace your taxi when it got to old to do it’s job, of course not, so why should this private company get state subsidy?. If there is any government funding to be had then it should go to tender and then perhaps another transport provider might win and provide us with a better service.

    The sea link to the islands is poor, you have to have goods delivered to the issco at Penzance quay, then it gets shipped over on the boat, then one of the carriers has to pick up your goods and deliver them to you, so you can end up paying three shipping charges to get stuff to the islands.
    How about a roll on, roll off ferry, we could drive our cars on to the ferry, drive off the other end, load up with stuff and drive back again, avoiding all the unnecessary freight costs apart from the day drip to the mainland.

    This happens on the Isle of Wight every single day
    This happens between England and France and, England and Holland every single day
    So why can’t it happen here?
    That’s the trouble with a monopoly, no incentive to improve.
    And they want the government to fund their asset replacement!

  8. Adam Morton,St.Martins January 20, 2013 at 10:28 am

    I am not sure that any within the council quite get the seriousness of the situation. It may well not be the council’s legal responsibility to oversee the procurement of the islands most necessary service but given that there is no higher authority in the islands, who else is there to turn to?
    As I see it the future of this most vital service is entirely within the hands of those not directly affected by its outcome. I very much doubt that the salaries of anyone on the council, steamship board or Duchy will be greatly affected if we saw a 30% drop in trade this season. The continued good fortunes of the Steamship Company do not translate into viable trade levels to keep local industry going at a level sufficient to secure its long term future. The demise of BIH has brought about a windfall of trade for the company but even in the unlikely event that they carry all the ex BIH passengers and that the cessation of the Southampton & Bristol routs were of negligible impact, it still does not alter the fact that the downward trend in numbers before, has absolutely no reason to be reversed. No amount of marketing can halt this. Service and costs have to be comparable with our competitors in the industry or the tourist trade will go the same way as the flower industry.
    With three services available in the past, the potential level of trade was always at a point that meant one of the modes of transport was barely viable. It is no use saying there is no demand for a sea service, as the fares are so high and the comforts so low that any potential cannot be perceived. When Scillonian III was built, a significant portion of its trade was derived from the freight of the flower industry, requiring a multipurpose vessel. This is no longer the case and the continued use of such a vessel is neither sufficient for the freight nor conducive to the passenger industry however economical on fuel she is. Now that the trade is split between two services it could or should mean the potential trade on the Scillonian is doubled. Given that a passenger ship will use very little more fuel when it’s full than empty it should result in substantial savings to the company which could be passed on in fare reductions. Failure to do this will result in turning away even more trade as the current fares are so high that they encourage air travel as the price is not significantly less enough to balance out the discomfort and the time taken.
    If the company does not reduce fares, the inherited trade will dwindle away within a few years and when a new ship is acquired it will be necessary to increase fares to cover the extra costs and this will be passed on to too smaller customer base to make it viable. Any new vessel offering superior service would require this new potential doubled trade and the current fares to sustain it for the summer months only. Continuing as we are, will result in a new vessel with fares 50% higher at least making its purpose pointless as the fuel and labour would be less flying everyone in. This is no doubt the conclusion that the Council and Steamship have come to but it takes an irresponsible attitude towards the future viability of local business outside the steamship co.
    All the factors we require as highlighted by FRIST cannot be contained in one solution. We are an island based community so reliability will never be absolute. The addition of a hardened runway at Lands end should massively improve the air service that the “well heeled” visitors will use. The rest of the islands infrastructure cannot survive on just these few and the “affordable” aspect of air travel to these islands may never be realisable. Interestingly I find that if you check out comparable services in the highlands and islands, our air service would appear to be about 20-30% more whereas our ferry fares are around 300% more! Sad though it is, the demise of the BIH service could provide the perfect opportunity to launch a viable improved ferry service if handled correctly.

  9. Nobby Nobbs January 14, 2013 at 6:50 pm

    If the council wanted to do something to help, then they could extend the airports opening hours on a Saturday and even allow Sunday flying all the time Lands end is closed.

    “The Council has already sourced central Government funding to develop plans for a hard runway at Land’s End and is helping the Steamship Company access grants to help pay for the runway

    Why should a private company get public funding?
    Subsidise and make companys tender for public money

    I wish the ISSco would cease trading then we could get a subsidised route preferably provided by another supplier