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Channel link plan finally scuppered?

By This is Devon  |  Posted: May 12, 2011

<P>CAUGHT ON CAMERA: The two ferries, Rapparee and Shanklin aboard the transport ship OXL Fantasy, entering the Grand Harbour in Malta.</P>

CAUGHT ON CAMERA: The two ferries, Rapparee and Shanklin aboard the transport ship OXL Fantasy, entering the Grand Harbour in Malta.

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THE TWO Fastcat ferries, originally destined to ply their trade on a new route between Ilfracombe and Swansea, have been sold.

But the man behind the scheme to set up a ferry link between Ilfracombe and South Wales, says the plan remains steadfast.

The two ferries, Rapparee and Shanklin – still sporting their bright yellow Severn Link livery – were pictured on Monday, aboard the transport ship OXL Fantasy, entering the Grand Harbour in Malta.

Their final destination is Russia, where they are believed to have been bought by a company called Alien Shipping.

The company, set up in 1999, owns and maintains passenger services and moored vessels in and around St Petersburg.

But for Chris Marrow, chairman of Severn Link, the sale was always going to be inevitable, after the financial backer who owned the mortgages on the two vessels, pulled out of the project for the Bristol Channel.

Mr Marrow said: "We have anticipated this for quite a long time, after the shareholder dropped out, but it doesn't make any difference to our plans.

"I feel very disappointed for the people who were so keen for us to start the service. But I haven't come this far to give up now.

"We are still hot on the trail of new finance and vessels are easy enough to purchase once that is in place. It doesn't have to be those two vessels."

He said Severn Link was currently in talks with three potential investors, but plans could not move forward until a deal was clinched.

"We have two alternative business plans and it will depend on the financial backing, which way we go in the future. The finance will also dictate, to a certain extent, the type of vessels we go for."

He explained that as well as the problem with docking facilities that they had encountered in Swansea, there was a lock which was exactly the same length as the Fastcat ferries at 40m.

"If we get vessels that are perhaps 38m long, they will be able to go through that lock and berth there without a problem."

The first of the alternative plans, he said, was very similar to the original and involved the simultaneous launch of services between Ilfracombe and Swansea, as well as between Cardiff and Minehead.

The second option is to launch the Cardiff service first and the Ilfracombe service later. But that "depends on what finance we are able to secure," says Mr Marrow.

He was unable to estimate a timescale for the launch of a future service.

He said: "It would be too late to launch anything this year, as time is getting on, but if the finance falls into place, bearing in mind the current financial climate, we could possibly get something running next year."

See Comment page 40

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  • Profile image for This is Devon
    Forever disallusioned, Ilfracombe  |  May 14 2011, 5:36PM

    This is a link to Burnham on Sea news, April 2011. http://www.burnham-on-sea.com/news/2011/hovercraft-plans-chris-marrow-28-03-11.php Can someone tell me why hovercraft couldn't have been used for Ilfracombe? It may be very obvious, but not being a good sailor type myself, I really would like to know.

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    Derek Gawn, Ireland  |  May 14 2011, 1:23AM

    Sam Jones: whilst I agree with your comments in principle, unfortunately Mr Marrow has a back history of these failed maritime ventures, that never (or very briefly) get off the ground & sometimes involve taxpayers cash as subsidies....so don't expect a trip to Ilfracombe in the near future. Forever Disallusioned: Yep, looks like the drink in the Brit is 'on hold'. Have to go to Russia now if I want a trip on the Rapparee!!!

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    Forever disallusioned, Ilfracombe  |  May 13 2011, 9:40PM

    Hello Derek Gawn. After this surprising news it seems that I am not destined to meet you off the ferry and have that drink with you at the Brit after all! I bet you were as shocked at the news us most of us here in Ilfracombe.

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    Sam Jones, Swansea  |  May 13 2011, 5:40PM

    I was forwarded this link from a freind in Ilfracombe who believes 'forever disallusioned' does not speak for the majority of Ilfracombe. It is easy to comment on somone elses vision and obvious hard work, not so easy to have that vision and see it to its fullfillment. I persoanlly hope (and I do speak for the majority of Swansea!) that Mr Marrow can find new investors and bring this vision to life. It is a positive venture that will benifit us here in Swansea and Nth Devon.

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    Patrick Murrell, Clevedon, North Somerset  |  May 13 2011, 12:04PM

    Q.E D! We now look forward to another exciting chapter of The Great Marrow Fantasy... I will shortly be booking my ticket for the inaugural Hovercraft trip from Burnham-on-Sea to South Wales. The only problem is where is Mr. Marrow going to find any Hovercraft these days... apart from Southsea to Ryde they are now a virtually extinct species!

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    Derek Gawn, Ireland  |  May 13 2011, 12:00PM

    Thanks NDJ for emailing a copy of your Comment....very well put!

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    Derek Gawn, Ireland  |  May 13 2011, 11:28AM

    Can anyone please tell us more distant folk what the NDJ's Comment on Page 40 was? It doesn't seem possible to find that online. Thanks!

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    Derek Gawn, Ireland  |  May 13 2011, 11:20AM

    Yes, but what is so worrying is that Mr Marrow has been having meetings, earlier this year, with the good folk of Burnham, telling them the same rubbish...but this time about a hovercraft service. All I can think is that this guy is on a permanent quest to unlock different public purses....?

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    (G)ROWING (O)LD (D)ISGRACEFULLY, The Banana Republic of North Devon  |  May 12 2011, 10:30PM

    Perhaps Mr. Marrow should change his name to Walter Mitty......

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    Forever disallusioned, Ilfracombe  |  May 12 2011, 3:35PM

    PS. The boats have been bought by a company called Alien Shipping! That just about sums it up. signing off .........

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