Page last updated at 16:08 GMT, Monday, 25 June 2012 17:08 UK

Peer appeals for 'lifeline' ferry service

A Labour peer has called for daily, year-round ferry services between the Isles of Scilly and the UK mainland, which he said would be a "lifeline" for the people of the islands.

Lord Berkeley tabled a question to government ministers on 25 June 2012, asking what action they were taking to create a passenger ferry link to the Isles of Scilly, which lie off the south-west tip of Cornwall, in line with the Scottish government's ferries policy.

Transport spokesman Earl Attlee agreed that "passenger transport services to and from the mainland are regarded by residents... as a lifeline".

But he told peers that ferries to and from the Isles of Scilly, unlike many services to Scottish islands, "are able to operate commercially without subsidy, and have done so for many years".

Lord Berkeley responded: "Cornwall has the lowest GDP in the UK... the fourth lowest average wage in the UK and very expensive housing."

He added: "The ferry only goes for seven months every year and the return fare is £90 - this compares with Islay in Scotland where there are several ferries a day, all the year round, and the return fare is £12.50".

He called for government attention to a proposal from the islands' council for "an affordable lifeline service every day of the year" and said the council should be allowed to make use of money from the EU's regional development fund.

Earl Attlee acknowledged Cornwall's economic difficulties but argued that it was difficult to make comparisons between ferry services there and the "rather more complicated" services in Scotland.

He said that some infrastructure improvements had been funded by the council of the Isles of Scilly in conjunction with Penzance town council.

Liberal Democrat peer Lord Bradshaw said that both the ferry and the helicopter which served the islands were "running on borrowed time" and might not be replaced commercially.

He suggested the government require services to be run under a public service obligation (PSO), similar to those which apply in Scotland, to avoid the prospect of the Isles of Scilly being "more or less cut off when the existing ships and infrastructure fail".

Earl Attlee told him there was "no need" for a PSO as the ferry operators were investing to keep the ship in operation "until at least 2018".

The Scillonian III passenger ferry runs between March and November of each year.

Other questions were on training and upskilling women workers, encouraging the use of new technology in the UK through government procurement, support for young people with special educational needs.


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