A DELEGATION will travel to London in a bid to persuade the government to fund a new £10 million berth for Condor Ferries.
South Dorset MP Richard Drax and a team from Weymouth and Portland Borough Council will meet Transport Minister Stephen Hammond in a bid to secure the future of the vital ferry service.
They will ask Mr Hammond for financial assistance to help the borough council fund the estimated £10m upgrade works needed on the harbour's berth one.
The council would to spend that sum to accommodate the larger ship Condor is considering using on the Channel Islands route.
Due to the size of the new craft, Condor favours using berth one over the newly refurbished berth three.
The borough council recently spent £4m repairing the crumbling berth three and Condor switched their sailings to Poole for 17 months while work was done.
Businesses suffered while Condor temporarily moved to Poole and many fear that if the company was to pull out permanently it would have a devastating effect on the town.
It is estimated that Condor generates around £7 million a year for the local economy.
The Echo has started a petition which has gained more than a thousand signatures calling on the company to stay in Weymouth.
Negotiations are on-going between all parties, but if refurbishment work goes ahead on berth one Condor would switch sailings to Poole.
This could be for up to two years, as the Echo revealed earlier this week.
Mr Drax said the ferry service was important for the town's economy and that without the improvements there was a danger of losing Condor Ferries in Weymouth.
He said: “The ferry service to the Channel Islands is an integral part of the resort and it's important for the town's economy and for the tourism industry in general.”
He added that £10 million was a lot for a local council to find and so they were looking to the Department for Transport for help.
Mr Drax said: “Obviously, £10 million is a tall order but Condor brings a considerable amount of rent to Weymouth and it is certainly a viable proposition, so long as we can get the berth enlarged in time for the new ferry.”
Mr Vaughan said: “The council is working hard to explore all options to secure the long-term future of Condor Ferries operations from Weymouth in order to protect local jobs and continue the historic links to the Channel Islands from the town.”
Speaking to the Echo earlier this week, James Fulford, chief executive of Condor Ferries, said the firm valued its relationship with Weymouth but refused to make any guarantees for the future.
He said: “Condor Ferries is committed to investing in a safe and efficient fleet which will enable us to provide a full service of sailings, keeping the Channel Islands connected and supplied.
“We are a long-standing customer of Weymouth Harbour, having operated from there for many years, and value our close relationship with the town.”
SIGN the Echo petition calling on Condor Ferries to show their support for Weymouth.
Simply click here to add your name.
The campaign, which has already seen hundreds of people add their name to the online and paper petition, is calling on the company to confirm their commitment to the town.
The petition says that Weymouth enjoys a good relationship with the Channel Islands and the cross-Channel ferry link is a vital asset.
It adds that the ferry operation is worth millions to the local economy.
There has been a ferry link between Weymouth and the Channel Islands for more than 200 years.
Condor, which has been providing the service for 20 years, favours Weymouth because of its easy access to the Channel and because it is the closest English mainland port to the Channel Islands.
To sign the petition click here, or visit your local newsagent which has a copy of the petition.