Councils to bid for better ferry service

Councils to bid for better ferry service

14 August 2013

THE case for an extended and cheaper Strangford ferry service is to be put to a Stormont minister in a joint delegation from Down and Ards councils.

At a meeting on Monday, Down Council voted to send its chairwoman and vice-chairman to the meeting with Regional Development Minister, Danny Kennedy.

Outlining the background of the situation to members, council chief executive John Dumigan said: “The Ferry appears to be seen by DRD as a transport facility as opposed to a contributor to economic development.”

He also presented a report from the Strangford and Lecale Partnership, which called for extended running hours to facilitate events, and looked at issues of affordability and the onshore fencing arrangements proposed for cruise ship passengers.

While praising ferry staff and management, the Partnership had a number of criticisms to make.

“Settlements in all of these areas [Ards Peninsula and Down District] rely on local and visitor income to the hospitality industry,” the report reads.

“It is normal for events and evening meals to run after 10.30pm (11pm on Saturday) after which time there is no ferry crossing so attendance is restricted and income from an event or restaurant/pub trade is reduced.

“Perhaps more importantly the limited travel restricts the offering for tourists in all of these areas and may affect their decision to stay in the first place or diminish their experience and their likelihood to return.

“The cost of the ferry may reduce visitor spend elsewhere and potentially deter visits (£15 return for a family with three children).”

Among the report’s recommendations are for the ferry service to run to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays and 11pm on other nights, at least from Easter to October, and that there be a cap on the cost of tickets.