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Andrew George MP Press Release on Ferry Link Project.

posted Mar 2, 2011, 7:37 PM by Richard Cliffe   [ updated Mar 2, 2011, 8:36 PM ]

Andrew George MP issued a press release (see attached) on 1 March 2011 on the subject of the IOS Ferry Link project.  In his release he drew attention to his efforts to champion the project and lambasted Cornwall Council for an “all or nothing approach” with regard to funding.  Referring to the other transport projects delayed by the Comprehensive Spending Review he stated they were proceeding “with an average saving to the tax payer of 41% (see comments).

 The Penzance Chamber of Commerce has issued its own response (see attached) expressing members disappointment with the lack of political leadership demonstrated by the MP and half- hearted support for this vital investment in West Cornwall.


Comment

Those who have followed our MPs involvement in the IOS Ferry Link will know that our MP’s position on the project has at best been ambiguous. He lobbied for refusal of planning permission for Penzance Harbour plans (Dec 09 meeting) helping create a 3 month delay which then turned into a 9 month delay due to the intervening General Election.  Despite a robust majority of Councillors supporting Penzance Harbour plans at the second planning meeting (14 for 7 against) he has continued to equivocate on both Penzance Harbour and the vessel solution developed by the Route Partnership despite lack of a plausible alternative.    

The MP takes issue with the need for  £40 million Govt grant  (~66% of the total ) but as the scheme is primarily for the IOS (just managed by Cornwall Council) and the IOS only has a Council budget of ~£6 million a year (2007/8) there was hardly much chance of financial 'burden sharing'.  Of necessity the project was always going to be mainly grant funded.  Of the remaining ~34% the EU is providing £11 million and Cornwall Council £10 million from borrowing funded by vessel operator charter payments.

The press release mis-quotes Dof T figures for savings.  The actual figures are: 

-   14% savings in DofT grant for 9 projects in the “Supported Pool” ( projects that had been approved but not started when the budget cuts were imposed).

-     25.4% saving in DofT grant for the two other projects in the same class as the IOS Ferry (Walton Bridge Surry and Reading Station Highway Works).

The 42% figure relates to 23 schemes promoted from the Pre-Qualification Pool (projects at an earlier stage of development) where their promoters have indicated reductions in the proposed grants they are expected to seek from the DofT (see attached DofT Feb 2011 Update)

Effective advocacy of the IOS Ferry Link at the Parliamentary level has never been important.

Given the parlous state of BIH finances (debts exceed £12 million) and high risk of its helicopter service to the IOS ceasing later this year,  the new vessel is desperately important.  Severe reductions in overall passenger capacity to the IOS and unreliability due to increased dependence on Skybus could strangle the tourism industry which is the mainstay of the IOS economy.  Any strangling of the flow of tourists risks undermining the ferry service because it is the heavy flow of tourists that effectively fund the service and avoid the need for a revenue subsidy as required on most Scottish Island ferry routes. It needs to be remembered that travellers to the IOS largely fund their own transport.  This can be seen in the fares paid where an open adult return to the Isle of Islay (ferry time 2 hrs 20 mins) costs £16.25 whereas a similar ticket for the IOS (ferry time 2 hrs 40 mins) costs £85.00. It is just unfortunate that investment is a new vessel  - the last one was 33 years ago - has coincided with a severe Governmnet budget squeeze.

If the Helicopter service is withdrawn after sale of the Penzance Heliport then travel chaos on IOS routes could become a regular feature when adverse weather causes cancellations on the weather-prone Skybus service and the ferry has inadequate capacity to cope (or is indeed is laid up for the winter).  The wrong political decision on funding could result in excruciating embarrassment when travellers get stranded on the Islands (newsworthy)  and the decisions of ministers get raked over by the media.  It just requires a wet and windy summer season  - not unknown down here.







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Richard Cliffe,
Mar 2, 2011, 8:32 PM
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Richard Cliffe,
Mar 2, 2011, 8:34 PM
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Richard Cliffe,
Mar 2, 2011, 8:32 PM
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