In this afternoon’s budget, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has announced that the Levelling Up Fund will invest £48.4m in three new vessels for the Isles of Scilly. “Levelling up” is the government’s strategy for its manifesto commitment: “not just investing in our rural and coastal areas, but giving them far more control of how that investment is made”. This investment is based on the needs of the community, and will help both Penzance and the Isles of Scilly to build a stronger, healthier, greener economy.
The air and sea links between the mainland and the Isles of Scilly are the lifeline for the communities and businesses of Scilly. The existing passenger ferry and the freight vessels will soon come to the end of their economic lives, and need to be replaced to maintain a sea link. The age of the vessels is resulting in increased maintenance and operating costs, and increased unreliability of services. Only Government investment in these transport links could maintain a sustainable local economy.
Derek Thomas MP has been chair of the local transport board since 2020, and has worked with stakeholders and public bodies to push for the Islanders’ priorities for new transport links. Based on these meetings, and a survey sent to everyone living on the Isles of Scilly, Derek pushed for new transport links that will provide year-round passenger travel by sea, with a particular emphasis on cargo capacity and accessibility for those with disabilities. Updated infrastructure – in Penzance as well as on Scilly - will also improve passenger safety and the handling of freight and luggage for the off-islands.
The Council of the Isles of Scilly took the recommendations of the local transport board forward in its application for the Levelling Up fund. The application was supported by Cornwall Council who recognised that it would benefit the Isles of Scilly and the terminal in Penzance, supporting and protecting jobs and the economy. The project will protect access to work, education and health services for those living on the Isles of Scilly.
The project will fund the building of three new vessels – a passenger ferry, a cargo vessel and an inter-island launch - as well as harbour improvements to enhance their operation and improve accessibility. The vessels will initially use a hybrid battery/engine propulsion system, but have been designed to take on additional battery capacity as the technology advances. These will increase cargo capacity and reduce journey times while still cutting carbon emissions.
“This is a great example of how levelling-up is going to work – MPs, councils and local businesses working together, to identify what local priorities are and then finding a solution with the government.
“The new vessels will enable the local economies to be stronger, greener and more resilient.
“Now that the Government has agreed to fund the new vessels, we need to ensure that they deliver the benefits for Penzance and the Isles of Scilly we have been working for.”