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Lords told: islanders paying tourist price for ferry travel

By The Cornishman  |  Posted: June 28, 2012

Marian Bennett.

Marian Bennett.

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THE CAUSE of Scilly travel cost parity with the Scottish Islands was being significantly advanced this week by questions in the House of Lords.

Former Opposition Transport spokesman Lord Berkeley put down a question for debate asking what action was being taken to create a lifeline passenger ferry link to the Isles of Scilly in line with the Scottish Government's ferries' policy.

In reply, Earl Attlee said it was difficult to compare the two distant island situations.

"I am aware of the economic difficulties in Cornwall," he said, while speaking in the House of Lords on Monday.

"As regards the comparison with the Scottish situation, it is difficult to make valid direct comparisons when the circumstances vary and the service is rather more complicated."

Scilly's council has assembled a report, Isles of Scilly Transport – a Comparative Study of Scilly and the Scottish Islands – which starkly illustrates the difference in costs between the various forms of island transport.

Council chairman Mike Hicks says its objective is the pursuit of "equitable support and equal rights with our island neighbours within the UK and EU community".

It points out that a return sea trip to Scilly costs more than four times the amount for a return ticket to Islay, an island off the Scottish coast, which is a similar distance from the mainland and with a similar population size.

Figures from the report reveal the return sea trip fare on the Scillonian III is £85-£95, while the equivalent ride to Islay from the Scottish mainland is £12.35.

In winter there is no passenger ship at all, compared to Islay's year-round service – Scillonians only having the expensive fixed wing or helicopter alternatives.

The report shows the cheapest Scilly wintertime return travel option by plane is £120-£160, while the helicopter return flight between Penzance and Isles of Scilly is £190.

Saying that islands are paying the tourist price for ferry travel, Lord Davies of Oldham asked Earl Attlee this week if it was "not time that the Government looked at this very seriously? There are clear potential threats to the existing services, which in any case do not meet the islanders' need."

In his reply, the Conservative Earl said he was confident there will be a service in the short term.

"The noble Lord asked about the cost of a ticket for the ferry. I understand that a day return is £35 and a period return costs £85 to £95.

"However, a Scilly Isles resident's return is £20.50, so they do get a discount."

Bryher councillor Marian Bennett, who, with economic development officer Diana Mompoloki played a significant role in assembling the statistics of the comparative study, said: "From encouragement given by people involved in transport to the Scottish Isles, and support from key figures like our MP Andrew George and Lord Berkeley, it shows that people are taking our situation very seriously."

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