The Council has been successful in securing £48.4m towards the cost of replacing the vessels and improving the harbours which play a vital role in providing the sea links which support the community and businesses on the Isles of Scilly. The funding was confirmed as the Government announced the first areas in the country to benefit from its Levelling Up Strategy in the autumn budget.
The Council submitted its bid for funding to the Government in June 2021, based on the work which had been undertaken by the Isles of Scilly Transport Board. The board, which is chaired by Derek Thomas MP, developed plans to replace the existing passenger, cargo and inter-island vessels and improve the two busiest harbours on the islands at St Mary’s and Tresco. The project will also benefit from £5.4m of local funding to be provided by the Isles of Scilly Steamship Group, Duchy of Cornwall and Tresco Estate.
In anticipation of the funding bid being successful, work has already started in order to ensure the harbour improvements can be completed and vessels enter service on or by 31 March 2024.
Once completed the project will deliver a range of benefits for the community which include:
- Residents’ travel scheme ensuring affordable travel, priority access to crossings on the cargo vessel all year round and improved onward connectivity
- Seat on the board of the Isles of Scilly Steamship Group for the Council as the community user representative informed by a Community Advisory Board
- Access for passengers with reduced mobility to a minimum standard set by the Council
- Annual Passenger Transport Service Review to ensure the standard of service is independently measured and reported on annually
- Provision of mainland delivery point for internet orders and onward shipping to the islands
- Apprenticeship programme for local residents
For more information on the planned improvements, read the Isles of Scilly Sea Link information leaflet.
Robert Francis, Chairman of the Council of the Isles of Scilly, said: “the Council has made it a priority to ensure that the existing ageing ships and infrastructure are replaced, and we have been fortunate at the timing of the Levelling Up Fund opportunity. It is no exaggeration to say that the ships that link the Isles of Scilly to the mainland are a lifeline for this community and today marks an important day in Scilly’s recent history. We are extremely grateful to the government for recognising the need for investment through their support during the pandemic and now again through this substantial funding of £48m. Plans for the replacement vessels developed by our partners at the Isles of Scilly Steamship Group are very exciting and show that we can expect a huge upgrade on the existing sea links. I’d like to thank everyone who has worked so hard to ensure that this bid has been successful, with special thanks to our MP Derek Thomas. I look forward to seeing this project move forward at pace.”
Stuart Reid, Chief Executive of the Isles of Scilly Steamship Group, which runs lifeline passenger and freight services to the islands by sea and air, said: “this is a fantastic day for the Isles of Scilly with a major Government investment that will futureproof the sea link by funding new ships and harbour upgrades. We are well advanced with our vessel replacement plans and have held extensive discussions with a number of shipyards. We look forward to introducing the Scillonian IV passenger ship, cargo vessel and inter-island launch in 2024, which will be purpose-built to meet the future service needs of the Isles of Scilly community, local businesses and visitors for many years to come.”
Derek Thomas MP, Chair of the Isles of Scilly Transport Board, said: “to secure this level of investment for the seagoing link between Penzance and Scilly is remarkable and extremely welcome. The fact that we have is testament to our working together to find a way to secure the investment needed for an improved method of transport for people and freight to and from Scilly. Years of hard graft, including scores of meetings here and with Ministers in Whitehall, has convinced Government of the need for this investment and now it is for us to continue to work together to deliver the improvements to our harbours and the new ships. I wish to sincerely thank everyone on Scilly and in West Cornwall who got behind this effort and I look forward to seeing the transformation this money will provide.”
Chris Gregory, Land Steward of the Duchy of Cornwall, which operates St Mary’s harbour, said: “it is excellent news that the Government have again recognised the importance of supporting the transport infrastructure on the Isles of Scilly, for the benefit of the island community. Major works to upgrade the quay at St Mary’s were last completed in 2014, in readiness for the new passenger vessel and it is marvellous that we now have the funds to renew the vessels and also to complete the improvements for pedestrian access to the quay, that were not previously possible.”
Robert Dorrien-Smith, Tresco Estate, said: “Tresco Estate welcomes the significant investment in our shore-based infrastructure and vessels for the Isles of Scilly Steamship Group. This will be a step change in accessibility to the Islands.”
Linda Taylor, Leader of Cornwall Council, said: “we welcome today’s announcement that the bid to the Levelling Up Fund to build new vessels and deliver harbour improvements to upgrade the sea transport links between Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly has been successful. This is good news for residents and businesses in both Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly as the government investment will provide transport and economic benefits to both communities. We have fully supported the bid by preparing the business case required for the £48.4m of funding, and for the design and delivery of the Expo, which is happening right now on St Mary’s, so that residents and visitors have the opportunity to give their views on the facilities required.”