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Why the IOS Ferry Link needs funding now!

posted Feb 15, 2011, 2:11 PM by Richard Cliffe   [ updated Feb 15, 2011, 2:30 PM ]

www.thisiscornwall.co.uk, 10 feb 2011, reported objectors claims about the IOS Ferry Link project.  Here is a short rebuttal of their claims and rationale for funding this project and quickly (given the uncertainty over the remaining life of the Scillonian and helicopter service).

The Route Partnerships solution might not be glamorous (like a fuel hungry fast twin hulled vessel) but it can operate all year around, has the lowest operating costs, is low risk (technically and financially) and is economically sustainable (is expected to fund its own replacement in ~ 24+ years time). With the Scillonian very close to being economically life expired and the future of the helicopter service highly uncertain after the planned sale of Penzance Heliport, a credible and deliverable solution is urgently needed.

 The Route Partnership replacement vessel is only needed because the Steamship Company cannot fund an adequate solution itself.  This is a repeat of the 1977 situation where the Government had to step in and help.  Part of the responsibility lies with the past management of the Company but part is due to the marginal economics of the route. 

 Unlike with many of the Scottish Isles there is no revenue (operating costs) subsidy.  Travellers pay the vast majority of the cost of the journey which is why an open adult return to IOS costs £85 whereas an open adult return to the Isle of Islay (broadly similar journey duration and island population) costs £16.25.   Compared to most UK island communities, travel to the IOS is small burden on the taxpayer.  It just happens that the Scillonian is on its ‘last legs’ at a time of swinging Government economies and both harbours are victims of under-investment over the last 20+ years.

 The MP’s favoured Option Pz is not substantially less expensive (they quoted a figure about 6% less than Option A) but excluded a sea defence for the Barbican/inner section of South Pier (especially vulnerable area) and the costs of buying out the leases of existing businesses (to be displaced) and compensating them for losses.  Option Pz is a valiant but flawed solution.  The proposed terminal blights the harbour front with a modern glass and steel terminal building when many  towns folk would prefer to see the area clear of buildings. 

 Far from the IOS Ferry Project being an extravagance it is a compromise.  It provides the necessary secure,safe and functional terminals with the minimum of frills.  It ensure the investment made is protected from the sea and the likely effects of climate change over its projected life.  It provides a work-horse of a vessel capable of providing an all year around service at the lowest operating cost and best chance of funding its own replacement.  

 The project is a critically important investment for Islands and essential for Penzance if it is to retain a commercial harbour in the long term and gain the full benefits from the visitor trade.  The limited remaining life of the BIH helicopter service underlines just how important this investment is.  It is time to say yes to this proposed investment in West Cornwall and stop saying no.