Reopening Cork-UK ferry link ‘unfeasible’

The reinstatement of a ferry link between Cork and Britain is not feasible in the current economic climate, according to a report compiled by transport experts.

Cork County Council and the Port of Cork commissioned consultants Strategic Transport Solutions International to undertake a feasibility study of reopening the link after the ill-fated Fastnet Line ceased sailings in 2011.

The report concluded that in the present “economic and competitive climate”, a new service cannot be justified commercially on the basis of the volume of passengers and freight achievable in the short term.

Traditionally the main ferry route between Britain and the south-west of Ireland has been Swansea to Cork. However, this time the consultants looked at linking Cork with Newport in Wales, and Bristol in England.

They said the Bristol Port Company, in particular, was very interested in accommodating a service to this country. However, the consultants found that, at present, a service between Britain and Cork wasn’t feasible.

But they made a number of recommendations to ensure when the economy is healthier it could become a runner.

First was the need to reinvent the south-west of Ireland as a “must-see” destination for visitors from the south of England.

Any future company operating the link would also need to secure long-term freight contracts.

The consultants said that, in particular, they should exploit the strategic attraction of the freight industry in the Bristol area.

They also recommended the need to differentiate the advantages of a Cork link against competitive offerings out of Rosslare.

County manager Martin Riordan said the report provides a detailed feasibility assessment of the potential of a Cork-UK route and “will enable investors and route operators to consider the potential of reinstating the route at a future date when the economic and competitive environment improves”.

Swansea-Cork Ferries had operated a successful service between the two ports up until 2006.

It was replaced by Fastnet Line — formed by a co-operative in West Cork — which undertook its first sailing between Cork and Swansea on Mar 11, 2010.

However, trouble was encountered just minutes into the journey when one of the engines on the 28-year-old MV Julia broke down and she docked in Swansea several hours late.

On the return journey problems were encountered again, and she was several hours late docking in Cork.

After that, everything appeared to be going smoothly until Nov 1, 2011, when the company ceased operations and went into examinership. Fastnet Lines then announced it intended to restart operations the following year, but only for the summer.

This was dependent on a €1.6m rescue package which wasn’t forthcoming and the company officially ceased trading in Jan 2012 with the loss of 78 jobs.

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