For nearly a century the Steamship Company has dedicated itself to fulfilling the transport needs of Scillonians. In all of this time, it has neither invested elsewhere nor diversified away from what it has always seen as its purpose in life – to foster prosperity and well-being in our Island community through the provision of its transport needs.
We understand the criticism that the services we offer, particularly by air, need to be more resilient, especially during times of poor weather. We are working and investing to make all our services more reliable and affordable – and to address any customer service shortcomings, too.
Any proposal to invest in the Islands’ transport infrastructure is of course appealing on the face of it, especially one which promises so much. But any new investment must be sustainable well into the future if it is to remain in our Islands’ interests.
Our concern over the Penzance Heliport proposal is that there has not been a proper robust independent analysis as to the affordability of doubling up on the number of airports our community needs, and indeed currently has. In the end, it is always the user of services who pays for their building and running costs. We are deeply concerned by the potential consequences for our Islands’ community should a fourth dedicated airport, just eight miles from Land’s End Airport, prove to be unaffordable. Serious thought must be given as to whether there are simply enough passengers on the route to sustain a new and separate airport into the future. It is our opinion that advocates of the Penzance site have not properly considered this risk, and the consequences that would follow should their scheme fail. The hardships felt by us all as a result of the uncertainty and disruption caused by the last helicopter operator failure in 2012 are fresh in our memories.
We are not objecting to the proposed new helicopter service. On the contrary, we embrace the principle of competition, and have identified the potential benefits which could result from the investment and improvement opportunities a new helicopter service operating from Land’s End Airport could bring – to the airport itself as well as elsewhere in our communities. To air and sea passengers too – helicopters flying from Land’s End Airport will save them money. That is why we offered such reasonable terms to Tresco Estate and their helicopter operator.
During my 14 years as Chairman of the Steamship Company I have looked at every decision we’ve taken through the lens of ‘what will be in the Islands’ best interests’. I know all my executive and non- executive colleagues on the board of directors have too, because quite simply the interests of our Islands’ community and those of the Steamship Company are completely aligned.
Over the next few days we will be writing to everybody living on the islands to explain our thinking, our rationale and our own investment plans in more detail. A number of my colleagues, and I too, have lived and worked on the Islands for many years. In our own businesses, as in our responsibilities for the Steamship Company, we have all worked to add to the continuing prosperity and well-being of our Islands. The actions we are taking now have this very same objective.
We look forward to communicating with you further. Finally, my thanks to those who have already taken the time to contact me, and for the constructive support and assistance you have offered.
Chairman, Isles of Scilly Steamship Group. 1st June 2017