Those who watched the House of Commons Transport Committee hearings will have heard Baroness Kramer make the point that there is no coherent proposal from Scilly regarding transport. They will also have heard IOSC's new Chief Executive making the case for 'improved resilience' in transport links but no reference to lower cost travel or improved services. So what does this all mean?
What it means is that whilst FRIST is making the social and economic case for improved services and lower costs through perhaps the mechanism of a Public Service Obligation (involving a Government subsidy) the IOS Council is effectively content with the status quo with the benefits of planned infrastructure improvements.
Infrastructure improvements will improve the reliability of existing air services and especially at Lands End but they do not address the lack of services to Scilly (especially in the winter) and the long term decline in visitor numbers which has accelerated with the loss the helicopter. Whilst high travel costs are not the only issue adversely affecting Scilly's competitiveness, it is one of the commonly stated reasons for not visiting the islands or not visiting more frequently.
The Department of Transport has already earmarked national funds for the planned infrastructure improvements so from the Minister's point of view - 'job done'. Her in-tray as far as the IOS is concerned is empty. Her advice to FRIST at the face to face meeting in London recently was to convene a round table meeting and try and agree a way ahead locally. Whilst the Minister made no commitments (other than to send a representative) she also did not rule anything out. The Minister reportly briefly smiled when questioned by the Transport Committee and one can understand why - its not currently her problem!
Islanders who are content with the status quo need do nothing. Those who are not content should speak to their local Councillor. The new Chief Executive is expected to call a meeting of transport stakeholders shortly to discuss transport links and all the indications are that the IOS Council will conclude that nothing beyond planned infrastructure improvements is necessary to meet resident's and visitor's transport needs.
There has been an interesting related debate (in 'comments') on the Scilly Today news items below:
Scilly Today 3 March: FRIST members giving evidence to Government transport inquiry. here
Scilly Today 4 March: Hotelier warns Commons Transport Committee that Scilly is on economic precipice. here
The planned infrastructure improvements include an extension to St Mary's Quay, major dredging of Penzance Harbour/highways improvements, improvements to St Mary's and Lands End Airports. All are currently delayed awaiting EU approval(s) because they are part EU funded. Time is critical because the EU ERDF funding tranche expires on 31 Dec 2015 and all project monies should be spent before this date.