Is the new ferry deal a back-up or a flagship?

‘YOU’RE gonna need a bigger boat,’ is a line that has gone down in history.

It’s not clear at this stage whether it was the Policy & Resources Committee who said it to Condor Ferries, or the other way around, but somehow, after a fair amount of speculation, and without a formal policy to develop or maintain air and sea links, it looks like it is happening.

The States will be buying a ferry for Condor to lease and run on the island’s behalf.

As per usual in these feverish times, response has been, shall we say, mixed. Certainly the proposal raises several questions.

To start positively – the States of Guernsey seems to have decided that it wants to work with Condor. After years of drawing back from signing contracts and apparently wishing to stay at arms’ length from the ferry company, maybe there is a recognition that there will be no stampede of operators wishing to take over the Channel Islands route and to try to make money from a passenger service.

Notwithstanding operational issues, Condor’s longstanding commitment to the islands, especially through Covid, probably meant it deserved better treatment.

How will the travelling public react? There have been intermittent calls for a return of a traditional ferry when one of the fast ferries has had problems at a crucial time. But when it comes to the crunch, will islanders prefer a seven-hour trip to England’s south coast over one of three hours on flat seas in peak summer months?

What happens to Jersey services? Does the new States-Condor ferry leave Jersey out of the round-trip loop? If not, where is the specific benefit for Guernsey? It has always appeared that Jersey’s contract with Condor has brought no specific benefit to the island compared to Guernsey’s memorandum of understanding arrangement.

Then there are the terms of the agreement. We wait to find out how we will buy the boat, what the commercial arrangement will be with Condor, financials involved, and the length of any deal.

Islanders may welcome this deal, but will be keen to see benefits beyond resilience and reliability so far highlighted by Condor, which sound like a back-up rather than a flagship.

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