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FofPH & LEAAG in new assault on Scilly Links

posted Aug 16, 2010, 8:32 AM by Richard Cliffe

FofPH & LEAAG in new assault on Scilly Links

 

FofPH, who oppose the Route Partnerships plans for the IOS Ferry Link, and Lands End Airport Action Group, who oppose the option of the Isles of Scilly helicopter service moving to Lands End Airport (from Penzance Heliport) have joined forces.  They announced their move in a press release issued on 11 Aug (see attached).  In the press release they disclosed they had written to the Secretary of State for Transport claiming that the Route Partnership are on the verge of spending millions of pounds “improving” one lifeline service that has survived perfectly well in private hands for the last 90 years while another vitally important lifeline link to the Islands is about to fail with no plan in place for an alternative service”.  See attached copy of the joint letter to Dept of Transport.

 

Editors comment:

 

The letter from objectors to the Secretary of State for Transport appears to be a desperate last ditch attempt to delay the IOS Ferry Link project.  Whether desperate measures are necessary is not known – nobody appears to have an inkling about which way the decision will go regarding Listed Building Consent.  The decision makers (Govt Office West Midlands) is keeping its ‘cards close to its chest.  Objectors and supporters alike know that further delay to the project is potentially terminal.  Key tenders expire at the end of the year if not take up creating new uncertainties and delay.  Any new project (due to refusal of LBC) could not possibly be worked up and receive the necessary approvals before the EU funding deadlines expire (the £11 million EU contribution must be committed by Dec 2013 and spent by Jun 2015).  

 

The objector’s letter claims “no plan in place for an alternative service”.  The existence of Skybus is completely is air brushed out in the letter and yet Skybus is a significant competitor and part of BIH’s dilemma.  If BIH raises it prices to improve profitability customers will move to Skybus.  Fixed wing aircraft are less expensive to operate than helicopters both for fuel and maintenance so Skybus can charge less and still make money.  Islanders seem to prefer the helicopter but what you cannot claim (unless you are FofPH) is that no alternative air service exists.  Even if the Government was minded to step in and help (highly unlikely), it could not do so without harming Skybus. 

 

The claim that the ferry service has “survived perfectly well in private hands for the last 90 years” is of course incorrect.  The Dept of Transport loaned IOS Steamship Company  £1million in 1977(£4.3 million in today’s money) to help with purchase of Scillonian III.  The loan was repaid over 12 years.  Dept of Transport had the right, and exercised the right, to appoint a board member over this period.

  

We all hope that BIH can improve its profitability because competition on the air route to the Isles of Scilly is healthy and the helicopter service is less subject to cancellations due to poor weather.   We have to assume that BIH will have considered the adverse weather at Lands End Airport – a problem that forced their move to Penzance in the first place.  Moving from Penzance Heliport both releases capital which BIH’s holding company urgently need and potentially improves profitability because of the opportunity to share fixed costs and reduce fuel costs.  What BIH does not need at this time is another group of objectors closing off options that it may need for its survival.

 

A full rebuttal of the FofPH/LEAAG letter to the Dept of Transport will be posted on this website shortly.

 

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Richard Cliffe,
Aug 16, 2010, 8:39 AM
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Richard Cliffe,
Aug 16, 2010, 8:39 AM
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