Pressure group will state Scilly's case in Whitehall
A PRESSURE group is set to meet with a government minister to discuss the future of transport links between Penzance and the Isles of Scilly.
Continued concerns about the state of services to and from the mainland have resulted in the crunch meeting between the Friends of Isles of Scilly Transport (FRIST) and Minister for Transport Norman Baker.
The talks will allow islanders, who are battling to safeguard the lifeline crossing, and Whitehall to thrash out their ideas.
"Our request to meet the Minister was based on the immediate need for a lifeline service on the cessation of the helicopter service and our principal long term objective to secure a service for passengers and freight that is reliable, regular, all year round and comparably affordable to that provided in the Scottish isles," said Marian Bennett, co-ordinator of FRIST.
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The island councillor added that those travelling to London for the talks will use it to highlight a number of issues surrounding the grounding of the helicopter service and its impact on the community and economy.
The delegation, she said, will hope to hit home the difficulties of travelling during the winter when "the only passenger service will be a fixed wing aircraft susceptible to cancellations due to fog, wind or waterlogged runway".
"While some changes in arrangements have been put in place to transport more people for whom health and disability issues would have previously precluded travel on small aircraft, the next few months will determine whether these are adequate," she added.
FRIST was established this summer to campaign for affordable, all year round services to and from the Isles of Scilly.
Before the meeting on November 1, Mrs Bennett hopes to find out more about the upcoming plans for the Isles of Scilly Steamship Company. She is keen to discover the nature of the work being carried out on Scillonian III this winter and any programme of work planned to 2018; progress with plans to replace the vessel; information on next year's sailing/flight schedule, fares; proposals for improved accessibility.
A spokesperson for the Isles of Scilly Steamship Company said the organisation had been tirelessly working over recent months to reassure people of their commitment to Scilly through their fixed wing, passenger ferry and freight services.
While discussions are planned between the islands and London, the Council of the Isles of Scilly's airport consultants Parsons Brinkerhoff are investigating airlines that might be interested in operating the route.
"As any airport operator would do we've got the consultants opening discussions to see if there are any opportunities out there " said Diana Mompoloki, Strategic Development Investment officer.
"It's the only sensible thing to do."