Page last updated at 06:50 GMT, Thursday, 29 October 2009

Spring launch for new fast ferry


This computer generated film shows how the new ferry will look

A ferry service connecting south Wales and Devon is set to launch at Easter.

New operator Severn Link said it will run two catamarans between Swansea and Ilfracombe boosting the economies both sides of the Bristol Channel.

The passenger-only ferries will run all-year round taking around 50 minutes to complete the crossing.

Company founder Chris Marrow said he was certain there would be enough demand with "considerable" spin-offs for both ports.

"I have started ferry services in other parts of the world but I have always looked at the Bristol Channel and thought really there should be ferries there," he said.

"Every other long stretch of water in the world like that, that I'm aware of, does have active ferry services."

He said he was certain it would prove popular with tourists on both sides of the channel.

"There is no question a lot of people are spending their holidays in the UK at the moment and in many ways I think it's the absolute ideal time to be starting," he added.

Chris Marrow
Market research has shown that there is a huge demand for this ferry route
Chris Marrow

He said over £3m will be invested in the service with Severn Link directly employing around 40 staff.

"In my experience it's going to create a lot of spin-offs, especially in tourism but other industries as well.

"There is very little doubt we will cause the creation of a considerable number of jobs over and above that."

Severn Link said to travel from Swansea to north Devon by road typically took around three-and-a-half hours.

Mr Marrow added: "Market research has shown that there is a huge demand for this ferry route."

The crossing, the first of several Severn Link plan to operate across the Bristol Channel, is designed to link up with the Swansea Cork Ferry which is due to re-launch in March.

Swansea council leader Chris Holley said: "This is terrific news that comes in the wake of the announcement that the Swansea to Cork ferry is being reinstated.

"A fast-cat service from Swansea to Ilfracombe would be a boost for the city's tourism economy and would allow Swansea people easier access to Devon and the south west of England."

Tim Jones, of the Devon and Cornwall Business Council, said: "We have calculated that this is likely in the first year to introduce around £20m of new business to Devon."

He said the benefits would extend well beyond the tourism sector.

"It's a really big business opportunity and something we should really be celebrating," he added.

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