FRIST: 'Island Helicopters service won't work'
The co-ordinator of campaign group Friends of Isles of Scilly Transport (FRIST) has said she does not believe the new Island Helicopters service will be resilient.
Marian Berkeley also hit out at Isles of Scilly Steamship Group chairman Andrew May, calling him a "spanner in the works" when it comes to transport operators working together.
She told This is Scilly at yesterday's Island Helicopters launch: "FRIST is totally independent of any transport operator. What we’re after is an improvement in transport services to the optimum level given our geographical and strategic operation. A helicopter service will bring about a real improvement in resilience in terms of weather but also to fly to Penzance town at sea level and especially to Tresco at sea level brings about a real improvement in services for people.
"We’re on the side of the passenger. To go to Land’s End, which is subject to very severe constraints from fog and visibility, is not good enough when something better is available. The Steamship Group have tried to kibosh the Penzance route and we consider that’s very unfair on many passengers and therefore the community of Scilly. We've got to have a it more choice, we've got to have the best possible service given all those constraints."
Of Andrew May's claims that the new service will prove to be resilient, she said: "It’s not going to be I’m afraid because of what we all know in terms of the natural circumstances and I think the cost of the service to the company will be prohibitive. What are they considering that level of expenditure when their sea service is in disarray and their freight service in particular is totally inadequate? We totally agree with the Transport Minister that the company needs to focus on its core services. They are the Steamship Company. In an ideal world with competition required and their monopoly situation, they should separate the sea and the air services."
Marian said that FRIST supports the Penzance Heliport business proposition "as the best transport offer going at the minute", adding: "I can assure you and members of FRIST that we are not one sided. We support the Scillonian service wholeheartedly. We would love to see a good helicopter service at affordable prices going to a choice of destinations."
Asked whether Scilly's tourism market can support a helicopter service from Penzance - a claim disputed by Andrew May - she said: "Something has got to change radically. If Andrew May, who is the chairman of the monopoly provider of services which are not fit for purpose, is saying that the market won't support it, then I don’t believe it and I think a little bit of good competition would help the whole situation of Scilly enormously.
"Just this weekend I was shown a photo of the teams - ISSG, British International Helicopters, the Council, the tourism association etc - working together at a Bournemouth show. I was part of those times, we did work together. We cooperated, we collaborated, it all worked and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t work again. But there’s one spanner in the works and that is Andrew May, chairman of the Steamship Company. There needs to be a change in leadership."
FRIST aims to achieve affordable, reliable all year round lifeline transport links between the Isles of Scilly and the mainland "to sustain the community and the tourism based economy upon which the community depends".