I have just returned from a trip to Northern Ireland to visit my wife's and my families, which are both in Northern Ireland.
We travelled by car ferry (Larne-Cairnryan) and we were astounded by the costs involved.
For comparison, I have just compared a P&O trip from Dover-Calais with the Larne-Cairnryan route.
For a trip leaving July 25 and returning July 31, the cost from Dover is £100; on the same basis, a trip to Northern Ireland would be more than £300. A Stena Line trip to Northern Ireland is almost exactly the same price as P&O.
I cannot believe that fuel costs, or operational costs, can explain this price difference on what should be similar routes with the same operator. I can only assume lack of competition on the Irish Sea allows this level of pricing. Apart from feeling personally ripped off, this extreme difference in ferry costs must be a serious barrier to tourist travel to Northern Ireland. A £200 saving on the travel cost is exceedingly beneficial to France, compared with Northern Ireland.
Has the Northern Ireland Assembly any powers in this matter? Can this issue be referred to the Office of Fair Trading? Considering the pricing regime seems also to include other Irish Sea routes, can the Assembly work with the Republic on this issue?
Perhaps, since there is no sectarian angle, no party has an incentive to address a serious issue affecting all the people.