Pirate FM News

Helicopter Flights to Islands to End

chopper.jpg

Published by the Pirate FM News Team at 7:01am 2nd August 2012 (Updated 5:43am 3rd August 2012)

There will be no more helicopters from Penzance to the Isles of Scilly.

Bosses are stopping the service from November.

It has been part of life in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly for almost fifty years.

But costs have been rising and passenger numbers falling.

British International had tried to raise millions by selling their base at Long Rock to Sainsbury's.

But on Wednesday the company learned that is challenged by Tesco amongst others, heralding what could be months of legal wrangling.

Managing Director Tony Jones, said: “The route has run for 49 years so this is an extremely sad announcement for BIH, its employees and its customers - in fact the whole of West Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. Unfortunately we had no alternative.”

Hear the full interview with him here...

 

Now Cornwall Council is calling on the government to give transport links to the Isles of Scilly the same level of money and support as the Scottish Isles.

Leader of the Council Alec Robertson said: "Effective, all year round transport links are vital to the economy of the Isles of Scilly and to the wellbeing of the islanders.

"The Isles of Scilly face the same challenges as the Scottish islands and it is wrong that they do not receive the same level of government support.

"The responsibility for maintaining transport links between the UK mainland and the Isles of Scilly rests with the Department for Transport and we will be lobbying the minister to look at what can be done to resolve the situation."

Local MP Andrew George told Pirate FM: "This is not just a blow, it's a devastating blow. This is clearly a major carrier of passengers both visitors, residents and public services alike.

"It's the nearest we have to any service that can claim to be a lifeline route to the Isles of Scilly. Of course we have the ferry and we have the fixed wing aircraft as well. But I suppose the most consistent throughout the year over the years has been the helicopter."
Scilly Chopper
Pirate FM understands many staff were in tears when they were told the news that they face being made redundant.

It brings to an end a drawn out battle for survival for the route. British International spent around £300,000 trying to secure an alternative base in St Erth before being forced to back down by local residents and what it calls "stakeholder pressure."

In a statement the Council of the Isles of Scilly said: "Islanders, and the visitors that come to our islands each year, will be concerned by these events. The Council acknowledges this concern and will work hard and do whatever it can to support and develop our transport infrastructure.

"We continue to maintain a strong working relationship with the Isles of Scilly Steamship Company and are convinced of its commitment to the islands.

"The Council is mindful of the anxieties of many islanders who have depended on the helicopter service to attend health appointments on the mainland. This is a vital service and we will do our utmost to care for islanders’ needs in this area."

Andrew May from the Isles of Scilly Steamship Company, which runs passenger planes and the Scillonian said: “In the absence of another operator coming forward our focus now must be to work with the island community to ensure that we do our best to compensate for this loss of service. The Steamship Company CEO and full Board of course routinely considers strategic risks and changes to our business and although we were not anticipating this outcome we are confident we can respond by looking at our scheduling and how we deploy our air and sea resources."

Dick Cliffe from Penzance Chamber of Commerce said: "One's heart goes out to to BIH employees who are losing their livelihoods and to Islanders who are losing their all year around transport workhorse. In the winter months, when there is no ferry, it is the most reliable and convenient mode of transport for travel to the mainland. This development highlights just how fragile and vulnerable transport links to the Isles of Scilly are."

In a statement Cornwall Council said: "We do not accept the claim by Tesco that there was insufficient evidence to support the consideration of the loss of the heliport as a factor in deciding the application and that the Council acted unlawfully in not securing an alternative site in the locality.

"We are disappointed that Tesco has delayed so long and put this claim in as late as possible. We will be fully defending this claim but appreciate that this process could take several months to conclude."

British International said it will honour all bookings up until 31st October 2012. Anyone with a flight booked after 1st November will be given a refund.

See the take off from Penzance which hundreds of thousands of passengers have experienced over the years here...

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