Ferry to Wales update: Council leader expresses interest in potential link

By Ollie Heptinstall   |   Local Democracy Reporter   |
Friday 20th May 2022 6:00 am
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Ilfracombe Swansea map (Image: Google Maps)
Ilfracombe Swansea map (Image: Google Maps) (Google )

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A COUNCIL leader is the latest figure to express an interest in a ferry service to Wales.

But Councillor David Worden, North Devon Council’s leader, warns there is ‘a lot of work to be done and that ‘substantial investment’ would be needed if any service was to serve more than just foot passengers.

Plans for a ‘Severn link’ service were first drawn up just over a decade ago, with Ilfracombe to Swansea expected to be the first route, though funding problems have meant the project has failed to become a reality.

However, the idea has resurfaced again in recent months after North Devon’s Conservative MP Selaine Saxby outlined her support in parliament last year, saying it would be ‘popular on both sides of the Bristol Channel’.

Expected to take 50 minutes each-way, the sea link would shave more than two hours off the time it currently takes to drive from Ilfracombe to Swansea via the Prince of Wales Bridge near Bristol.

It was recently reported that Swansea Council was in talks with counterparts in Devon and Cornwall about a new hydrogen-powered ferry service linking Wales with the south west.

Rob Stewart (Labour), leader of Swansea Council, said in April: ‘This would be a massive boost for tourism and business – to think you could cut your travel time to Devon and Cornwall by half, and of course it would have environmental benefits too: taking cars off the road and introducing green-powered ferries.’

Asked about the idea earlier this month, Councillor Andrea Davis (Conservative, Combe Martin Rural), Devon County Council’s cabinet member for climate change, environment and transport, indicated her initial support.

She said: ‘We’re yet to see details of any proposals, but we’re interested to find out more and we will arrange a meeting with North Devon Council to understand if additional support may be needed.

‘The principle of re-establishing the ferry link sits well with the Devon Carbon Plan and the transition to a zero-carbon economy, as well as the county council’s aspirations for a coordinated approach to transport including connections outside Devon and supporting local regeneration in our coastal and market towns.’

Now Cllr Worden, the Lib Dem leader of North Devon Council, has suggested he would also be keen on the idea, but stressed it would not be straightforward.

In a statement, he said: ‘North Devon Council is very interested in this potential project but there is a lot of work to be done to identify the type of ferry service that is possible and an operator. Foot passengers can be accommodated in Ilfracombe now without many issues but other types of service would need substantial investment.’

‘We will work with colleagues in Wales and at DCC to identify the opportunities and the issues that would need to be overcome in order to make this a reality.

‘We will be reviewing the various studies that have been prepared previously and hope to hold further discussions shortly.’

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