Sunday, September 20, 2015

Liberation calamity

Has anyone out there moved away from where they grew up, leaving family and friends behind? Do you still keep an eye on local news from “the old country”? I still check out the Guernsey news from time to time because I like to keep abreast of things that affect my family and which might come up in phone conversations.

This summer, I’ve been watching an unbelievable saga unfold over the ferry service to the island.

Being a small island, air and sea links are a vital part of island life. Obviously. And the volume of traffic is too small to sustain a free-for-all competition so the passenger/vehicle route is granted to a single monopoly operator.

You’d think that the Guernsey government, which grants licenses to run the route, would want to ensure a good and reliable service on this lifeline route.

You’d think, when they put the route out to tender and sign a multi-year contract on behalf of islanders, they’d insist on a decent service with enforceable service levels.

You’d think.

You’d be wrong.

The current operator introduced a new fast ferry to the route in March, with huge fanfare and promises of “an even better” service than before, replacing two vessels with one larger boat. i.e. No backup. The story since then has been a farcical catalogue of delays and cancellations due to mechanical failures, inability to dock if even the slightest breeze is blowing from the wrong angle, inability to handle waves a fraction of the height it’s supposedly designed for (and remember, this is the English Channel we’re talking about, with winter approaching), complaints of violent see-sawing in a following sea (and suggestions from the harbor master that passengers need to “retrain their stomachs”) and challenges with loading/unloading its full load of vehicles in the scheduled turnaround times.

I can’t lay my hands on reliable statistics, but anecdotal evidence suggests it has stayed on or close to schedule on only half its crossings. The ferry was even cancelled over the Guernsey Liberation Day weekend, arguably the busiest and most significant public holiday in the island’s calendar. Just Google “Condor Liberation” for a litany of disaster.

People are naturally fed up with this, and tempers flared when the ferry was cancelled yet again leaving people stranded at Poole harbor over this weekend.

The Guernsey government’s response?


Ali is planning to take a trip back there with the kids next summer for her father’s 80th birthday. The itinerary includes her parents (who live in Bristol) taking the car over on the ferry to Guernsey. We’ll be keeping a close eye on this fiasco hoping things will improve before then.

Right now, I wouldn’t trust any important trip to this ferry. Would you?


  1. It doesn't sound like a reliable operation. I imagine more competition is needed.

  2. Stephen, sadly the route is too small to support a competitor in such a capital-intensive business. They'd both go out of business in no time. The competition comes when the the local government puts the license up to tender and subsequent contract negotiations, which they seem to have utterly cocked up in this case.

  3. That seems really dangerous. What if the island had to evacuate?

  4. Hi Ian - nope .. sounds dreadful and I hadn't spotted this problem. The Channel at the best of times isn't the 'easiest' of seas ... I sincerely hope they sort it all out before the family come over next year ... keep us up to date ... cheers Hilary

  5. Alex, in that case they'd need rather more than one ferry :)

    Hilary, the winter months are what people were worried about the moment this tub started on the route. The previous boats were disrupted often enough, but they provided a model service in comparison!

  6. Travel by inicorn is still my preferred travel method... But that may just be me. ๐Ÿ˜



  7. Valerie, if it's unicorn travel, then I must insist on fluffy purple unicorns. Nothing else will do :)

  8. Ian, I do keep up with news from my home too. I agree that you would expect the government to be up in arms and keeping the community informed on what they are doing to fix the issue. I would hope that the carrier would have been familiar enough with the channel's conditions to pick the proper vessel for the job. Good luck, I hope it gets sorted out quickly.


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