Belfast Telegraph

Assembly blasted over ferry closure

One of the key men behind the failed bid to keep afloat the Swansea-Cork ferry has launched a stinging attack on the Welsh Government for its "inaction" in trying to save the service.

Operator Fastnet Line on Thursday announced it was to close the route after attempts to keep it going failed at the final hurdle.

The Welsh Government said it was disappointed by the news, but insisted the ferry did not have a long-term future because it was not economically viable.

But John Williams, vice-chairman of the West Cork Tourism Co-operative Society which established Fastnet Line, rejected this suggestion and claimed Welsh Business Minister Edwina Hart did not appear interested in attempting to save the service.

He said: "The Welsh Government initially engaged with us early on, but they became more detached as time went on. I wrote to Edwina Hart's office on a number of occasions to request a face-to-face meeting with her but she did not even have the courtesy to even reply.

"We never had this problem with the Irish government as we met face-to-face with ministers."

The Swansea to Cork Ferry Service was established in 1987. It came to a halt in 2006 when then operating firm, Swansea Cork Ferries, sold its vessel. In 2010 the route was re-established - this time run by the co-operative Fastnet Line - but it ran into difficulty last year when it was announced the service was to be suspended over the winter months, blaming higher than expected fuel prices.

Then Fastnet Line was entered into interim examinership by a court in Dublin and on Thursday its owners said state aid rules and "red tape" prevented them at the 11th hour from relaunching the service despite pledges of financial support, which included 200,000 euro from Cork County Council.

However the Welsh Government insisted the rescue plan was not commercially viable.

A spokeswoman said: "This is obviously disappointing news, but the Welsh Government has been advised by Finance Wales that the proposition by Fastnet Line Group for additional financial assistance for the Swansea-Cork ferry service was not commercially viable. The Welsh Government has remained in close communication with the Irish government on this matter."

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