Budget cuts threaten Brexit ferry plan

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Thanet District Council will vote on Thursday on whether to cut £630,000 of spending on the Port of Ramsgate.

The cuts would mean it would not be possible to run a roll-on roll-off ferry service between Ramsgate and Ostend if there was a hard Brexit.

The Department for Transport (DfT) has awarded a £13.8m contract to Seaborne Freight to run the service.

The DfT said it was continuing to talk to Thanet Council about plans to re-establish ferry services.

The council has been pumping money into the port to keep it in a state of readiness for ferry operations.

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The extra ferries from Ramsgate would relieve pressure on the Port of Dover in the event of a no-deal Brexit. They would also divert traffic away from the M20, which may have to be used as an emergency lorry park if backlogs develop at the border.

But the contract with Seaborne to run the service is controversial because it has no ships and has never run a ferry service before.

And last month it was discovered that the terms and conditions on its website seemed to have been copied from a takeaway restaurant.

The mayor of Ostend has also said it would be impossible to have a new service up and running by the end of March, although it is believed Seaborne has paid to have Ramsgate harbour dredged so that it can take larger ships.

Thanet District Council said that it had to find large savings to meet its medium term financial strategy and balance its budget.

It added that if a new deal to provide a Ramsgate to Ostend service was not signed, the proposed cuts would be voted on later today.

It appears that Thanet Council is caught in a bind. It can’t afford to spend this money on the port’s facilities if no ferries use them, but the ferries will only run if there is a hard Brexit, something the Government is committed to avoiding.

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Considering the criticism of the deal with Seaborne Freight already, cuts by the council which make it impossible to run the service at all are likely to be very embarrassing for the Government.

The DfT said it was a recommendation that had been put forward for a decision by councillors as elected members. It added that it continued to have conversations with a number of stakeholders including Thanet Council over any plans to re-establish ferry services at the Port of Ramsgate.

Ramsgate last ran a regular ferry service to and from the Continent in 2013. Its harbour can take three roll-on roll-off ferries at a time and it has been keen to restart operations.

At the moment the port is mainly being used to support off-shore wind turbines and import cars, but reopening Ramsgate as a major ferry port has been controversial with many residents saying they are concerned about the increase in traffic that it would involve.

Original Article : HERE ; This post was curated & posted using : RealSpecific

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