AN all-year-round sea link between the Isles of Scilly and the mainland is the main objective of a new campaign group.
Friends of Isles of Scilly Transport (FRIST) met for the first time last week to thrash out ways to secure travel to and from the isolated islands.
Members said they were keen to see an affordable, reliable and daily year-round passenger/freight link, comparable with that enjoyed by the Scottish Isles.
"We are going to be very determined in this and we will not give up with the first hurdle," said Marian Bennett, one of the FRIST members at last Friday's meeting.
"I don't think any of us would have gone down this road, which is going to be very difficult, without the belief that it will work."
Although not wanting to tell the Government how to fulfil the need for a permanent service, she said there was a duty to ensure islands were not cut off.
"Whether they charter a vessel, or whatever, we would be happy to advise them on how it could be done," she said.
In the short term, FRIST is urging ministers to give immediate approval for the St Mary's quay improvement, together with works at Penzance harbour.
Members are also calling on Whitehall to ensure a reliable daily transport service throughout the coming winter months, when the helicopter service stops operating on October 31. "This is necessary because the Skybus fixed-wing service is more susceptible than the helicopter service to crosswinds, fog, and (for Land's End airport) to a waterlogged runway," said Marian, who is also a member of the Council of the Isles of Scilly.
The improvements at the airport would not satisfy FRIST's overarching objective, she added.
"The Scillonian III is booked for its annual refit this winter," she said.
"Also, although a side issue, the freight ship, Gry Maritha is due for a refit for two weeks in October 2012.
"Until such time as these objectives are achieved, FRIST will focus its attention on the major challenges posed by the lifeline link with the mainland rather than inter-island and on-island transport issues."
She also praised the people of the Isles of Scilly and west Cornwall for their support of an all-year-round link, saying many people are backing the work being done.
"We are only 2,000 people here, that is not a loud electoral voice but we have got enormous support," she said.
A FRIST website is currently being built.
For more information, see www.iostransport.blogspot.co.uk