Ministry Says No Transport Subsidy For Scilly While Steamship Company Running

scillonian gangwayThe Department for Transport says there won’t be any subsidy for travel services to and from the islands whilst the Steamship Company continues to operate.

Campaign group FRIST has been pushing for the government to subsidise or underwrite all-year-round services, which would be comparable to those enjoyed by residents of some Scottish islands.

But the DfT says they’ve made it clear that they want passenger services to continue without subsidy and that the current steps taken by private operators need to be given the chance to succeed.

Their spokesman says that the private sector has responded positively and is increasing capacity on the ferry and fixed wing aircraft.

Skybus has leased a new Twin Otter aircraft, which arrive at Land’s End yesterday, and are also offering ten Sunday sailings of the Scillonian III this summer.

But FRIST spokesperson Marian Bennett claims the company has no more capacity on the boat and the additional plane won’t match the numbers conveyed by the helicopter

They accept that the company has improved passenger comfort but add that the plane is more weather dependent. And they say there is no public accountability on affordability and the level of service.

FRIST fears that the Ministry has not seen all the data about the disruption to transport, as well as the effects on the economy, over the winter and they intend to rectify this.

Marian says that there is no evidence that the Land’s End runway will be hardened by next winter.

At the launch of the new airport terminal building last Tuesday, Steamship Company Chairman Andrew May spoke of partnership work between Scilly and Cornwall Councils in trying to secure grant funding for a hardened surface at Land’s End, which remains closed today due to waterlogging.

FRIST member and Penzance Chamber of Commerce Chairman, Dick Cliffe says, “the DfT might think, and the IOS Council might help them think, that there are no serious transport issues that the private sector cannot solve soon, but that is not how looks from the mainland.”

He’s calling for “an informed debate on the islands” about the current transport situation and future transport provision or the island community and its economy are going to experience “wrenching change quite soon.”

It is a debate only islanders can have although the impact of getting it wrong will be felt more widely, adds Dick.

FRIST will meet this week to discuss their latest plans.

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