Passenger watchdog Travelwatch has called for talks with the energy firm behind a proposed wind farm development in the Irish Sea.
It has registered its objections to the development on behalf of Isle of Man passengers and called for the proposed layout of the development to be amended so there is ‘no obstruction of either the direct routes or the adverse weather routes’ between Douglas and Heysham and Liverpool.
Energy giant Centrica unveiled plans to develop three potential windfarms in an area that is crossed by both routes.
Steam Packet Company boss Mark Woodward has already warned that further windfarm construction in the Irish Sea could threaten the future of the Liverpool route. The government has also urged developers to rethink their plans to ensure current direct ferry routes are maintained.
In its submission, Travelwatch said: ‘We neither support nor oppose wind farms. Our objection arises because of the adverse effects of your current proposals on ferry passengers between the Isle of Man and the ports of Heysham and Liverpool.’
Under normal operating conditions the proposals are unacceptable as it would result in increased journey time with increased fuel consumption and crew costs leading to pressure to increase passenger fares.
The development would also lead to scheduling and timetabling problems at weekends in winter as it may not be possible for a vessel to undertake two return trips in 24 hours.
The proposals are ‘even more unacceptable’ under adverse weather conditions as they would obstruct weather routing options.
It would result in: a substantial increase in additional journey times and increased fuel and staff costs; additional passenger discomfort resulting from worse routes for longer journey times; disruption to timetable with consequent risk of missed connections to/from onward destinations; increased likelihood of service cancellations, to prevent discomfort, and for safety margin in restricted sea lanes, with consequent disruption to passengers.
Steam Packet chief executive Mark Woodward said: ‘The Isle of Man Steam Packet Company stance on the proposed wind farms remains as previously stated.
‘Our original concerns have been echoed independently by Travelwatch in its own press release.
‘These concerns have been raised with the various windfarm developers via a number of forums in the past where we feel have they have at best been trivialised and at worst simply ignored.’
Representatives of Celtic Array Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of Centrica, will be visiting the island next month for further consultations.
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