Spring launch for inter-island ferries
A DEDICATED inter-island ferry service, likely to be operated by Manche Iles-Express, is due to be launched in the spring, it has been announced.
The Granville-based firm, which already runs seasonal services between Normandy, Jersey, Guernsey and Sark, has been revealed as the preferred bidder in the tendering process.
Although the contract has not yet been awarded, discussions are in their final stages and the States say they hope the service will be in operation by 1 May.
It is believed the operator would use its two vessels to run an as-yet unspecified number of services between Jersey and Guernsey during the spring and summer. Although prices are yet to be fixed, it is understood a return fare would cost under £40.
Initially, it was agreed that the Jersey and Guernsey States would jointly underwrite the arrangement for a total of £250,000. But it was yesterday confirmed that the firm would require no financial support.
Economic Development Minister Lyndon Farnham said that the deal would put an extra 25,000 seats a year on the inter-island route, which is also served by Condor. Discussions are also taking place to see if the service could be extended to Alderney.
‘Discussions are still being held to clarify the extent of the schedule but they are a reputable company which offers a reliable service and will offer a great opportunity for Islanders to travel between the Channel Islands,’ said Senator Farnham.
‘I understand a return fare to Guernsey will be in the region of £40, but that is subject to confirmation.
‘We are still working on a few other details but I understand there will be return services at least four days a week, including one on a Saturday,’ he added.
Manche-Iles Express began operating in 2004 and has two vessels which can each carry around 240 passengers and travel at a speed of 29 mph.
The company recently invested 1.2 million euros in its Victor Hugo ferry, adding 44 seats to enable it to carry 237 passengers. It also installed stabilisers to allow it to travel more smoothly in rough weather.
The company is also understood to have put seats on the outside of the vessel which passengers can use in good weather.
Nine firms submitted expressions of interest, but only two went on to lodge formal bids.
Condor initially applied to run the service but pulled out late last month, stating that two vessels it was planning to charter had been redeployed elsewhere during the procurement phase of negotiations.
Senator Farnham added: ‘The service will put on about an extra 25,000 seats between the islands and at the moment, with Manche-Iles’ current business model, I anticipate that there will be no need for a government financial subsidy.’
He added: ‘The States of Jersey and Guernsey have worked very well together on this and I have a very strong relationship with Normandy and France.
‘I will be attending the Salon d’Agriculture meeting in Paris with the President of Normandy next month. I think this just celebrates the desire of both governments to build business between France and Jersey.’
Senator Farnham also confirmed that there were discussions taking place to see if Manche-Iles could also include Alderney within its network.
He said: ‘My understanding is that there will be a service to Alderney. I would like to see a service, mostly to get their residents to Jersey, but because of economies of scale we are slightly limited.
‘I do think that inter-island travel is better than it was, but there is still work to be done with air services and I am holding regular discussions with Blue Islands and Flybe to see how things can be improved.’