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Thursday, 8 February, 2001, 20:13 GMT
Commission ferry cash boost
Claymore at berth
The Claymore at her berth in Campbeltown
The European Commission has said it will not object to government subsidies for a ferry service between Scotland and Northern Ireland, raising hopes it can be revived.

The Campbeltown to Ballycastle service was axed last year after the Argyll and Antrim Steam Packet Company said it was not economically viable.

An action group seeking to restore the link has been told that the EC will not oppose government money being used to help keep the service running.

The ferry link will provide a boost for the struggling economy of the Kintyre area.

George Foulkes
George Foulkes broke the good news
At an action group meeting in Belfast, Scotland Office Minister George Foulkes said the decision by the commission's transport committee was great news.

He said: "We now have some estimated figures for the levels of subsidy that may be needed to support the ferry service.

"Ministers in all the departments involved in the process now need to take a hard look at these figures to assess the value for money of restarting Ballycastle to Campbeltown services."

He added that a lot of work still needed to be done, but he was hopeful he could get the ball rolling in a matter of weeks.

"While there are still considerable hurdles to be overcome, not least the question of funding, this is a significant step towards re establishing a service that can bring significant economic and social advantages not just to Campbeltown and Ballycastle but also to the wider communities of Kintyre and Northern Ireland."

The service between Campbeltown and Ballycastle was launched in June 1997 with Sea Containers setting up the Argyll & Antrim Steam Packet company, known as the AA Line, to run it.

Jobs hopes

It received 8m from public agencies and the MV Claymore was refitted for the service.

It was hoped the twice-daily sailings would create more than 200 jobs and raise 7m for tourism across Scotland.

In February, the AA Line - reported to be losing 500,000 a year on the route - confirmed it was unable to continue.

A group of Kintyre business people, trading under the name of Kintyre Ferries, then launched the campaign to have the ferry route re-established.

The group has been negotiating to buy the MV Claymore and hopes that twice-daily sailings could resume this year.

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See also:

29 Aug 00 | Scotland
New hope for ferry link
04 Nov 99 | Scotland
MP's plea for struggling ferry route
13 Jan 00 | Northern Ireland
Fears over ferry future
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