Hopes quashed for a revived Isle of Man link

Ben-my-Chree leaving Douglas harbour
Ben-my-Chree leaving Douglas harbour

Ferry bosses have quashed any chance of a return to sea link between Fleetwood and the Isle of Man.

Campaigners set up a petition calling for the historic service to be reintroduced last month.

Within weeks, 1,000 signatures supporting the call had been collected and a Facebook group gathered 9,000 members.

However, Mark Woodward, chief executive of the Isle of Man Steampacket Company, has claimed there is no chance his company will provide any crossings because they would not prove cost effective.

He said: “We acknowledge calls from some quarters to revisit an Isle of Man-Fleetwood route.

“However, the Fleetwood route ended for very good reasons, all of which remain valid.

“None of our current vessels are able to use Fleetwood safely due to heavy silting of the port approaches and berths, a lack of suitable passenger and vehicle facilities, and tidal time tabling issues.

“Even if regularly dredged (a cost which a seasonal service could not justify) access to the port would be subject to severe tidal constraints.

“We would simply be unable to offer a consistent service. Our own research has consistently shown that Liverpool and Heysham are the preferred destinations and departure points, both from the perspective of Island residents and visitors.

“Furthermore, a recent consultation on ferry services carried out by the Department of Infrastructure, found that the ‘single-most preferred destination for future ferry travel’ was Liverpool (811 responses, 65 per cent).

“Heysham received 30 per cent of responses and Other five per cent.

“Ultimately, Heysham is a popular port for our passengers and freight customers as it allows a regular timetable, has good rail access, and will shortly see the new M6 link road opening which will transform road access.

“With regard to the future of the Liverpool route, the Department of Infrastructure is putting forward a report on the future of Liverpool services for debate at this month’s sitting of Tynwald.”

Coun Terry Rogers, chairman of Fleetwood Town Council, said: “Re-establishing then link with the Isle of Man will present a challenge, but it would be great for this town.”

Fleetwood businessman Darren Abey who set up the “Isle of Man Ferry Back to Fleetwood” page on Facebook, said: “It would be brilliant to get the Isle of Man ferry back to Fleetwood.

“Obviously, it won’t be easy but I have friends on the island who are pushing this.

“The benefits to Fleetwood would be huge and this is the perfect time to try this. Fleetwood is dying a slow death - this would be the answer.”

There was a regular ferry link between Fleetwood and the island in the past, originally dating from Victorian times, but these sailings were eventually deemed inviable by the Steam Packet and discontinued in the early 1990s.

However, a handful of one-off sailings since then have sold out rapidly and there is belief if handled correctly, there is real scope for a successful revival.