Promising start for cross border ferry service

The Foyle Ferry at Greencastle harbour
The Foyle Ferry at Greencastle harbour

The company behind the cross-border ferry service been Magilligan in Co Derry and Greencastle in Donegal have said the relaunched service has enjoyed a promising first season.

Frazer Ferries Managing Director, Paul O’Sullivan, said although it was a short season, the company was pleased with the volume of cars ferried across the Foyle.

“We are very hopeful we can improve and increase the number of vehicles we carry next year,” said Mr O’Sullivan.

The service, previously part-funded by Donegal County Council and the former Limavady Council, had been operating since 2002.

The former operator, Foyle Ferry Company Ltd, stopped the service last November and did not renew the contract for the summer season and Limerick-based Frazer Ferries bought the vessel.

Mr O’Sullivan said passengers were pleased about the 20 per cent reduction in fares and the more frequent shuttle-type service.

“We believe the ferry service is self-sustaining in the long term because of the volume of cars in the region and, we believe we can draw on the potential that’s there,” said Mr O’Sullivan.

“It generated positive results this year in terms of the volume of cars carried being up on last year, even though we came in late.

“We get the feeling there’s a desire in the locality for it to be expanded, and I am sure the politicians would be keen to facilitate that.

“We’ve been able to test the waters as such, and it has been challenging because we were so late coming into it.

“We had a month to prepare for this, but we are fully of the view, in the long term, there is lots of potential for it to be self-sustaining in the long-term without intervention but, to get to that stage and execute our normal, strategic business plan maybe 
the involvement of public funding should be considered.”

East Derry SDLP MLA Gerry Mullan has called on the infrastructure minister, Chris Hazzard to raise the Magilligan - Greencastle Ferry with the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross TD at next North South Ministerial Council “to ensure and safeguard the long term survival of the ferry service”.

He said there are serious questions about what happens once the contract ends.

Minister Hazzard said his Department has“had no involvement in either the establishment of this service or its operation”.

“Legislatively, my Department holds no statutory powers in relation to ferry services operating outside the North.