French keen to restart ferry service stopped by Covid

FERRIES connecting France to the Channel Islands are expected to resume service in 2022 following two years of disruption.

Manche-Iles Express's Victor Hugo in St Helier Harbour. (30101418)
Manche-Iles Express's Victor Hugo in St Helier Harbour. (30101418)

However, La Manche president Jean Morin said Channel Islands governments must help make it easier for French nationals to visit.

The Department of La Manche owns the Victor Hugo and Granville passenger vessels. The two ships were operated under contract by Manche-Iles Express until July 2020 when all services were suspended due to Covid-19.

‘These links have been interrupted for the past two years, particularly because of the health crisis, but we are very attached to them,’ said Mr Morin.

‘We have terminated the public service contract under which this service previously operated and we issued a call for tenders.

‘We are now currently examining these bids with a view to reopening the service in April,.

‘Of course, we will welcome any financial contribution from the Channel Islands, or another aspect. That could be to bring down the passenger taxes or the port fees.’

The current contract with Manche-Iles Express ends on 31 December.

Mr Morin also called on the islands’ governments to make it easier for French nationals to visit.

‘Another issue we have raised is the new requirement for passports for those travelling and, unfortunately, many of these journeys

are [spontaneous] decisions for people to travel.

‘Some 50 or 60% of those who make a decision to take a trip over [to the Channel Islands] do not normally have a passport, so if we could have a decision where French identity cards could be used for travel, we could make up the 50% to 60% shortfall in passenger numbers,’ he said.

‘There has been some progress in this respect, because the Channel Islands have now informed us that for school groups it will be possible for children to travel on a national identity card, but we would welcome further progress for those other travellers who do not yet have passports.’

Mr Morin’s comments were voiced at the annual Normandy-Channel Island summit.

The summit was attended by representatives from Guernsey, Jersey, Alderney, Sark, Normandy, La Manche and the prefecture of La Manche.

It was focused on the consequences of climate change, Covid-19 and Brexit and its potential impact, including fishing. Held in Jersey this year, the summit aimed to help representatives explore opportunities to work together.

‘This is the first of our annual summits since the UK-EU Trade and Co-operation Agreement came into effect on 31 December last year,’ said Deputy Jonathan

Le Tocq, Guernsey’s lead on external relations.

‘While that is the formal agreement between the UK and the EU, our place in it was negotiated with a view to ensure we maintained our good neighbour relationships with France, particularly Normandy and La Manche.

‘The summit also provides an opportunity to continue to learn about our approaches to the Covid-19 pandemic.

‘We look forward to seeing the volume of travel and trade start to grow between the islands and France.

‘The Bailiwick of Guernsey greatly values the continuing engagement and close working with our nearest French neighbours and regional partners across a range of topics.’

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