It has been a few days (and possibly long nights) since the announcement and decision by Government to pull the plug on the funding for the Isles of Scilly link. It got me thinking on the bigger impact with that decision and where it leaves Penzance. This is a complex question to answer, but having said that, here are my thoughts on this issue.
The current stance from the Council on the project is they have had enough and are walking away with a £2m hole in their pockets. They say it was always the Governments responsibility to supply the link, but they asked the then County Council in 2002 to work up a plan. Now any money that was earmarked for the plan would more than likely be reassigned to other projects.
Of course, a new ship could be funded by the existing operators, or even different operators. This money would probably have to come from private finance, or at a push Department of Transport money. I can hardly see the Council offering to pay for any of it. Without funding, no replacement ship can be brought, and that leaves the link in a perilous position.
It is worse for the Convergence money that was ear-marked for this project, as this will now be reassigned to other projects in Cornwall. Penzance’s loss might be a win for the Temple road upgrade or other projects that are in desperate need for cash. One thing for sure is this current Convergence money is gone from Penzance and even if a new plan (or miracle) appeared, it would have to be fully costed and ready to go by the 1st June.
On the wider picture and away from the sea-link there is a lot of concern to the future of the Heliport. This could leave Penzance completely and move to another location like Newquay. Even without the issues of the IoS link this would still be a huge blow to the economy.
Also, on the horizon in 2013, the franchises for the Intercity Rail Link are up for grabs. This may not seem a concern, but from my information it could be. This is because there is a real possibility that the Intercity service could stop further up line in Truro, or worse Plymouth. The reason is the journey from Plymouth is very expensive and could be replaced by cheaper, smaller trains. This would signal the end of the direct route to London and may put off a lot of people travelling by train. This scenario may never happen, but it is a worry by those in the transport business that I have talked to.
Losing one transport link is bad enough and may still spell trouble for Penzance, but imagine if two or three happened? It would be a disaster for Penzance as those scenarios would leave the town with a very bleak future.
Of course you may disagree with my points and think the cancellation of the project was good, but I am very worried.