Thursday, 15 July 2021
Department of Rural and Community Development
116. To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development her plans to improve the number and quality of the air services and ferry services to the islands; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37163/21]
The recently published rural policy ‘Our Rural Future’ underlines this Government’s continued commitment to our offshore island communities. It is a core part of the policy to support those communities by funding programmes that deliver transport services that are affordable, reliable and of a high quality and, by doing so, to maintain sustainable vibrant communities on the islands.
Since 1997 the number of state subsidised services for the islands has increased from one ferry service to 25 separate services. These provide year-round ferry, cargo and - where applicable - air services to 19 off-shore islands. There are no plans at present to provide any new subsidised services.
To ensure that the quality of these services is maintained, my Department works closely with the operators, island representative groups and organisations to monitor the services and to make sure they are delivered in a safe, timely and professional manner.
As the COVID-19 travel restrictions continue to ease, my officials will once again have the opportunity to engage directly with all stakeholders to ensure that the services continue to be delivered as contracted. Issues regarding the quality of the service form a part of this monitoring process.
As technologies evolve and better quality vessels and airplanes become available to the market, the Department will review the Request for Tender documents to encourage potential operators to upgrade their fleet of vessels or airplanes so that travellers can expect a higher quality of service as they travel to and from the islands.