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Council in talks over ferry back-up plan
COUNCIL chiefs are trying to tempt another ferry company to Weymouth in case Condor sets sail.
It is part of a back-up plan to maintain a ferry link and all the economic benefits its brings.
Urgent work is going on behind the scenes at Weymouth and Portland Borough Council in the wake of the bombshell from Condor Ferries over new infrastructure demands to accommodate a new super ferry in the harbour.
Some of that work involves exploring ways it can secure £10million to upgrade a berth suitable for the new ferry, including bidding for infrastructure funding from the government through the Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).
The council also wants Condor to sign an agreement to ensure it stays until at least next April.
But it’s also been revealed the council has approached other ferry companies to identify an alternative operator if Condor switched all sailings to Poole. These talks are ‘ongoing’.
In another move, the council has also held talks with Portland Port about the possibility of moving the cross-Channel ferry service to the island in the hope of ‘preserving local jobs’.
Discussions have concluded this is ‘not financially viable at the present time’.
Portland Port general manager Ian McQuade told the Echo that ‘useful discussions’ had been held with Condor and the council, but added: “We have not reached a position where any financial details have been required.”
The extent of the work going on at the council to keep a ferry service is revealed in an update on Condor future operations to tomorrow’s management committee.
Management committee chairman Cllr Mike Byatt said: “There are significant ongoing discussions, and options we are exploring.
“It’s too early to say what the outcome might be.”
The update report says following the announcement that Condor is considering buying a 102-metre Austal H270 trimaran, further talks have been held with Condor and its parent company Macquarie Group. It says the businesses cannot support further investment after buying the vessel and the council doesn’t have the money either.
Detailing the work going on it says: l Meeting with Transport Minister Stephen Hammond resulted in council being told direct government funding not possible but assistance provided where possible l Investigating whether Dorset LEP can support the works as an ‘infrastructure priority’.
l Specialist legal advice sought to draw up Harbour Revision Order timetable if berth 1 works go ahead. This likely to go to public inquiry l Discussions ongoing with Channel Islands’ Government to understand their position in agreeing a new 10-year deal with Condor l Approach made to other ferry companies to identify alternative operator if Condor leaves l Talks with Portland Port l Condor asked to sign operating agreement and lease to cover until the end of the current operating schedule in April 2015. Deadline now been set n BRITTANY Ferries, which sails between Poole, Portsmouth and Plymouth to routes in France and Spain, said it wasn’t in talks with the council.
A spokesman said it was ‘unlikely’ the company would operate out of Weymouth as it already offered a choice of sailings from three British ports.
The spokesman highlighted the problems of accessing Weymouth by car.
Three other ferry companies were approached by the Echo but weren’t available for comment.
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