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Improved service for Rathlin ferry will half travel time

Monday, 21 April 2008

Regional Development Minister, Conor Murphy today announced that the new contract for the Rathlin Ferry will provide improved services.

The six year contract has been awarded to Mr Ciarán O’Driscoll, whose companies currently provide ferry services to islands off the coast of County Cork.

The Minister said: “I am pleased to announce that we have been able to secure a faster, more comfortable vessel to supplement the services already provided by the MV Canna on this route.

“This new contract will offer improved summer and winter timetables using a combination of the current roll-on/roll-off ferry and a new purpose built high speed catamaran capable of carrying 100 seated passengers. The new vessel will provide a comfortable, accessible, year round, service to the island with a reduced crossing time from 45 minutes to 20 minutes. The enhanced timetable will no doubt assist journeys made by the Islanders but will also help in promoting tourism.

“This is a significant step forward in the development of Rathlin Island. The number of visitors using the ferry service has been steadily increasing and a new fast ferry can only help to stimulate this even further.

”The Department has secured the continuing use of the roll-on/roll-off ferry, the MV Canna, to provide vehicle and freight services. The Canna is owned by the Scottish company, Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited and will be leased to the new operator.

The new catamaran, to be commissioned by Mr O’Driscoll, will be available for service in summer 2009. Until then, the enhanced timetable will be provided by the MV Canna and a smaller mono-hulled vessel, which can carry up to 38 passengers on the 20 minute crossing.

The Rathlin Development Community Association was consulted during the tender specification stage. Their Sustainable Tourism Strategy called for more comfortable passenger services on the route to attract more tourist visitors to Rathlin.

The Department is working towards a date for handover of the contract of 1 June 2008.

Notes to Editors:

  1. Last year the Ferry Service carried 49,000 passengers representing an increase of 3% over the previous year and an increase of 32% over the last six years.
  2. Initially the number of daily sailings in the summer will double with capacity for extra sailings if the demand arises.
  3. The new purpose built vessel will be wheelchair accessible.
  4. The new contract has been awarded for a six year period over which the Department have committed to providing a subsidy totalling just under £4million.
  5. Mr O’Driscoll’s companies operate ferry services to Cape Clear Island and to Whiddy Island.
  6. The Rathlin ferry service contract was previously held by Rathlin Ferries Limited, a subsidiary of David MacBrayne Limited, a company wholly owned by the Scottish Executive.The Department for Regional Development provides a subsidy for the service. In 2006/07, this amounted to £443,000.
  7. The Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006 (TUPE) will apply to the staff currently employed on the route. No job losses are envisaged.
  8. Media inquiries to DRD Press office on 028 9054 0837. Out of office hours please contact the Duty Press Office via pager number 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned.