I STRONGLY support the proposal by Jan Bergman and other councillors to restore Weymouth's ferries, with possible passenger links to Guernsey, Alderney and the Isle of Wight.

I have read that many Guernsey inhabitants would be keen to resume a ferry link with Weymouth, and Alderney has considered the feasibility of establishing a ferry link with south-west England.

Cosens’ steamers used to provide a summer service to Wight, before holidays abroad became easy. The following comments may help to strengthen the case for new ferry services.

Alderney would be an interesting destination, full of educational opportunities, especially for school and college students. It has a comparable land area to Portland but has very different rocks, tidal range, wildlife, Norman background and recent history, but possible similarities from Roman and Neolithic times. The States of Alderney and Alderney Wildlife Trust are possible partners for various projects. The island even has a short railway (and a small airport).

There is also an opportunity for a passenger ferry from Weymouth to Swanage and Yarmouth and maybe further, as in Captain Cosens’ and Mary Anning’s time. A year or two back, about 100 people disembarked from the Waverley at Yarmouth, some came from Swanage and some from Weymouth. There is the possibility of holidays based in two or more locations (the IOW also has railways) and a day trip to Swanage, returning by rail. Wightlink is another possible partner for an IOW service, since they operate Yarmouth-Lymington and Ryde-Portsmouth ferries.

There is already a need for a more substantial Weymouth-Portland ferry link to reduce the number of buses serving summer cruise ships, and this would become a year-round requirement if the Eden Portland project became a reality or a Channel Island ferry operated from Portland Port. A suitable vessel might be hydrogen-powered, like the 35m long craft currently being developed for trials on the route between Brest and Ushant off the Brittany coast. It is obvious that Weymouth Harbour would need to accommodate two or more ferry vessels at the same time if all these services came into being.

To make connections easier, I think it would be sensible to construct a modern light rail link (with cycle-friendly rails) from the train station to the ferry terminal, similar to the Stourbridge Junction-Stourbridge Town shuttle. The old route along the harbour may not be the best option: the most direct route is via King Street and the Esplanade but would need to be carefully planned to minimise traffic disruption. The link could also be extended to the Park and Ride, as previously suggested. Weymouth would no longer be at the end of the line.

For the Channel Islands and Wight, you don't need large craft capable of carrying loads of vehicles, but you do need vessels that can cope with fairly rough seas, so as to maximise days of operation. Further down the coast, RMV Scillonian III is 68m long and can carry 485 passengers, no cars, from Penzance to Scilly (for comparison, Waverley is 73m long). Although the main customer base would be passengers, with or without cycles, there might also be opportunities to carry freight: there are small RoRo passenger ferries capable of carrying a few vehicles, and the loading facility already exists at Weymouth.

These new links would offer regional and national leisure and travel opportunities, not just local. New ferries and trams will need to be designed, then constructed and maintained, creating a range of new job opportunities. You can install WiFi on the boats and add commuters to the mix of potential users, particularly those seeking to maintain a healthy ‘work-life balance’. Now is the time to plan environmentally-friendly transport links, and work out ways to solve potential problems. The end result for Weymouth will be a more exciting, more connected, greener and, hopefully, more secure future.

Geoff Pettifer

Clearmount Road