Peer Says Council’s Reluctance To Join Scilly Transport Study ‘Depressing’

Lord Berkeley in the House of Lords

Lord Berkeley in the House of Lords

Prominent FRIST campaigner Lord Berkeley has said that he finds it ‘depressing’ that the Council of the Isles of Scilly won’t take part in a detailed review of transport issues facing the islands.

He made his comments during a House of Lords debate on the Queen’s Speech on Monday.

Lord Berkeley said the Local Enterprise Partnership had offered to lead an in-depth study with the Councils in Scilly and Cornwall to identify the best transport options for visitors and residents. But he said our Council had indicated it was not interested in taking part.

He pressed ministers for a trial subsidy for a winter ferry service, adding that the Steamship Company was prepared to operate one, but was unwilling to say how much that would cost for fear of the service being put out to tender.

He also wants a speedy decision on funding for the quay projects in St Mary’s and Penzance.

Speaking on Radio Scilly yesterday, Lord Berkeley described his speech as a “shot across the bows” of ministers and the Steamship Company. He said that the idea of a winter ferry service, operating a few times a week had been generally welcomed and he didn’t want to see a repeat of “what went so badly wrong” last winter due to the weather.

He believes any subsidy to operate a winter service would be small and wouldn’t necessarily have to go out to tender.

And he said if a village of 2000 people in, for example, Sussex had been cut off for 20 days last winter the local MP would be making “a big fuss about it.” He asked why islanders should suffer so much more than those on the mainland.

Lord Berkeley believes a detailed economic survey, independent of anyone with financial interests in the outcome, is required. And this would form the basis of a properly funded, year-round service, possibly with a new boat, he says.

He was told by the Chairman of the LEP, Chris Pomfret that the Council was not interested in taking part in the study and he hopes the newly elected members will take a different view on this and work together with Cornwall.

A spokesman for the LEP said that in November, their Board had offered to provide funding towards an economic and transport study if the Council considered it to be useful. But to date, the offer has neither been declined nor accepted. They added that the LEP was committed to helping the Council with their long-term sustainable transport needs.

When asked if he thinks the focus on poor transport infrastructure could be put off people from visiting Scilly, Lord Berkeley says the problems he’s talking about are winter problems and that won’t affect visitors.

And he says if potential visitors know there’s a better service in prospect, they’re more likely to come. Evidence from Scotland shows that when lifeline services to the islands were introduced, with lower prices, the number of visitors and islanders using them shot up.

If you don’t try and expose these things, he says, it’s difficult to persuade the politicians to change anything.

Lord Berkeley says the next step in their campaign is a meeting with Transport minister, Norman Baker.

In response to Lord Berkeley’s speech, the Council say that in January 2013, it was agreed at the LEP Board meeting, at the behest of the Council of the Isles of Scilly, that the Council would undertake a Transport Preference Study.

This has now been started and visitors and residents can expect to be asked questions about transport use, methods and price point over the next few weeks.

The preference study aims to inform developments and support issues such as the hardening of the runway at Lands End, and to understand whether people would want to travel by sea in winter. The work is designed to support capital investment in the Islands’ transport infrastructure but would also allow a strong evidence base for future lobbying and provision planning.

They add that the Department for Transport has made it very clear that a subsidy would not be possible in the case of the Isles of Scilly as both the air and sea links are currently well served by a commercial operator.

5 Responses to Peer Says Council’s Reluctance To Join Scilly Transport Study ‘Depressing’

  1. Samual Vimes cmdr May 15, 2013 at 10:29 pm

    The ios council is littered with Steamship directors and shareholders,
    so its no wonder that the council aren’t interested.
    Personally I think a subsidised route would serve the islands better than a profit driven monopoly.

  2. Waddle May 15, 2013 at 10:22 pm

    I take it you are referring to information from the second post down from this article Steve and nothing to do with Bryher quay being improved?

    • Steve Sims May 16, 2013 at 10:45 am

      Exactly Mr/Miss/Mrs/Ms Waddle.

  3. As a newly elected member whilst I applaud Lord Berkeley’s efforts, what he is in effect doing is further emphasizing the erroneous notion that it is easier to get to Elephant Island than it is to get to Scilly.
    Certainly it would be a cause for concern if a Sussex village was cut of for 20 days last winter, as indeed it would be if we had been cut off for 20 days last winter. I was here and I’m sure I would have noticed. We had issues with post and newspapers arriving late. However to claim we had no lifeline service is a spurious, if not quite a hysterical claim, we clearly do have a life line service.
    The helicopter had just stopped flying followed perhaps by the wettest November since Great Britain was covered by tropical rain forest 200 million years ago. To use an aberrant period like last November/December as an example also serves to undermine the argument.
    I fully support a hardened runway at St Just (who wouldn’t?) and efforts to start a new helicopter service. But the only way we will achieve parity with the Scottish Islands is if their travel subsidy is removed.

    As for the survey which I feel would be an unwarranted expense. I can perhaps pre-empt it.

    Would you like to see a year round subsidised ferry service to the Isles of Scilly? 100%

    Should there be a hard surface runway at St Just airport? 100%

    Would you like to see the return of the helicopter service? 97%. Some may have a vested interest in this not happening.

    Would you like to see an end to war and worldwide accord? 100%

    The link above (my name) is to a previous Scilly Today post where Jon Mackenzie gives a detailed assessment of the situation in Scotland at the moment, vis a vis us.

  4. Happy Chappy. May 15, 2013 at 11:23 am

    Not surprising, considering the mentality level of some of the old brigade. I just hope the newly elected members will do all in their power to rectify the situation.