Norman Baker MP, Minister for Transport, has written to FRIST laying out his Department’s position following his meeting with a FRIST delegation on 1 Nov 2012. Click here to read the Minister’s letter.
With the meeting having taken place just after the closure of the BIH service and with any revenue subsidy setting a new precedent, his response was predictable - no. He said historically “services have always been undertaken on a commercial basis without subsidy. We would like to see that continue”. He went on to say “At present the market is adjusting and we wish to encourage the positive response of the existing operator, and indeed the efforts of the Council of the Isles of Scilly to attract other operators.”
On the issue of vessels the Minister stated “the Isles of Scilly Steamship Company has said that it intends to invest in the Scillonian to keep it in service until 2018, and to explore the acquisition of a second hand replacement passenger vessel without support from the public purse. I fully encourage that approach.”
What is clear from the Ministers letter is that he needs to be convinced that the islanders have a transport problem that Skybus and the IOSSCo cannot fill on a commercial basis. The problem might be rather obvious from an islander’s perspective but it not from the perspective of DfT in London, part of a cash strapped Government. This is the obstacle that FRIST was set up to overcome and this is the reason why the Isles of Scilly Transport campaign needs as many friends as it can muster. If you have not signed up to register your support for our campaign (and to be kept informed of developments if you opt for this service) please do so now. You can also follow developments at:
If you are resident on the islands then make sure your local councillor knows about your transport concerns and problems. It is important that the central issue is addressed - affordable reliable all year passenger service with the mainland. A freight-only subsidy was suggested by the IOS Council Chairman to the Minister on 1 Nov (nice to have but it does not address the central problem with passenger services).