Steam Packet’s offer must be scrutinised, says TravelWatch

The Steam Packet has pledged to invest in a new fleet

The Steam Packet has pledged to invest in a new fleet

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The island’s passenger watchdog says there needs to be full public scrutiny of Steam Packet proposals before any decision is made on the future of ferry services.

Last week, the Steam Packet Company unveiled its offer to government which includes the pledge to invest £170m in new ships, port facilities and fare reductions.

John Pennington was TravelWatch’s representative on the strategic sea services working group, which spent several months looking at the Steam Packet’s original offer.

He said: ‘The offer has attractive features. But we are pressing for the full text of the offer to be made public. The devil is in the detail. This would be a long-term contract and there can be no room left for doubt or ambiguity in the terms.

‘The offer does not say how the level of special offer fares might be limited. What is to stop them being increased to just less than the quite expensive standard fares? We need clarification of the proposed revenue share scheme.

‘Also, we will be pressing for full details of the proposed Liverpool berth to be made public, as it would appear essential to agree the future of the Liverpool berth before any sensible agreement can be reached regarding the offer. There needs to be public scrutiny and informed debate before any decisions are made.’

Steam Packet chief executive Mark Woodward insists the company’s offer to government is a ‘compelling’ one.

It includes a commitment to invest in new vessels, increase year-round passenger capacity and introduce more special offers and a new frequent traveller scheme, if Tynwald gives its support. There would also be a revenue sharing deal with government.

And its offer talks of a strategic partnership to safeguard the future of the possible Liverpool route. It says this could include taking on a long-term lease over a new ferry terminal or part-funding the project.

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