Tuesday, 11 March 2014

What happens next? (after Transport Committee Hearing)

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.


  1. I gained the opinion that the majority of the Government members on the board were sympathetic to our case but I was sorely disappointed at the lack of cohesive argument and presentation by some members of FRIST; they missed many opportunities to reinforce our argument, in fact some were inarticulate. Comparisons were drawn by the Government committee with the isles in Scotland but no one pursued this obvious parallel.Why did no one ask "What happens next"? Very disappointed with the overall passion of the FRIST members - get a grip and DO SOMETHING THAT RECTIFIES THE CURRENT SITUATION -QUICKLY. You were given endless chances to press the case by the committee and you missed most - awful. you should be ashamed of your performance

  2. Only Marian Bennett and Tim Gutherie spoke for FRIST. Robert Francis is a supporter of FRIST's aims but attended in his capacity as a director of the Island Tourism Partnership.

    Theo Leijser, Chief Executive IOS Council and Chris Thomas, Chair of the IOSC Transport Committee represented the IOSC. The IOSC does not support FRIST and has obstructed its campaigns. When FRIST met with Norman Baker (1 Nov 2012) making the case for Govt support for ferry services (there has been no winter ferry since mid 1980s) the IOSC representative at the meeting proposed a freight subsidy. At the recent hearing where FRIST emphasized the negative impact of very high travel costs and limited services the IOSC presented the problem in terms of weakened 'resilience' following the loss of the helicopter service.

    The IOS Council has known about the long term sustainability issues of its transport links since ~2002 (Fisher Report). It was a partner with Cornwall Council and others in the Route Partnership which offered a new, publicly owned, vessel, better terminal facilities and an all year around ferry service. Unfortunately the Transport Minister decided in 2011 not to fund the scheme even though the helicopter operator was mired in debt and offering its Penzance Heliport for sale to Sainsburys.

    The lack of a unified position and a reluctance to expose differences resulted in what you observed - a very obvious and serious problem but not agreed solution or strategy for dealing with it.

  3. As FRIST has pointed out, only 2 of the 6 witnesses at the hearing were speaking for FRIST. And what you saw was not all of what the Committee got from FRIST. Written evidence had been submitted last September, and this was updated shortly before the hearing. Supplementary evidence covering questions that the committee wished to ask but did not have time to pose will be submitted shortly. It is also fair to say that it was mainly FRIST that was responsible for persuading the Transport Select Committee to devote dedicated time to addressing the problem of transport links to the islands in its much wider inquiry into Passenger Transport in Isolated Communities