Huge spike in passenger numbers for Foyle and Swilly ferries

Vehicles on the Foyle Ferry.
Vehicles on the Foyle Ferry.

The Foyle Ferry from Greencastle to Magilligan and the Swilly Ferry from Buncrana to Rathmullan saw huge increases in passengers numbers for this year’s sailings.

Donegal County Council has confirmed that this summer, 94, 403 passengers travelled on the Foyle Ferry a rise of over 37,000 from 2017 when 56,547 passengers were recorded.

Additionally, the Swilly ferry from Buncrana to Rathmullan also enjoyed a spike in numbers during its run from June to September, rising from 23,882 foot passengers in 2017 to 26,607 this year.

Donegal County Council provided subvention for both services - €105,000 for the Swilly Ferry and €120,000 for the Foyle Ferry.

Frazer Ferries have once again been contracted to provide the Foyle Ferry service in 2019, as have the Arranmore Ferry for the Swilly service.

Figures for the Foyle Ferry show that Thursday, July 12th was its busiest day with 1,754 passengers travelling across two vessels. The Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, hosted by Ballyliffin Golf Club, also proved a significant boost to numbers, with Sunday July 8, the final day, the most popular, with 1485 passengers. From July 5 - 8 inclusive, the days of the Irish Open, there were 4,664 foot passengers.

The event and good weather also had a positive effect on the Swilly Ferry, with July and August its busiest months. In July, 7,535 adults and 2035 children travelled on the ferry and in August, there were 7233 adults and 2448 children. August Bank Holiday Monday was the busiest day, with 802 adults and 254 children. The figures were welcomed by councillors at this week’s Inishowen Municipal District meeting, who praised the council for funding the services. However, Causeway Coast and Glens Council came under criticism for failing to provide subvention to the Foyle Ferry. Colr Albert Doherty suggested members could meet with the Mayor of Causeway Coast and Glens to determine how they could work together to benefit from next year’s British Open in Portrush.

Councillor Nicholas Crossan also suggested that Donegal County Council “go in with facts and figures” when next negotiating with ferry operators for the services.

Stating how it is “really good” that the ferries are so successful, Colr Crossan said the council must also ensure it is getting “value for money” when deciding the figure for subvention.

Colr Martin McDermott said it was “vital” the numbers who used the ferry this year must be repeated next year as the services are important to Inishowen.

Colr Martin Farren agreed and stated that while Donegal County Council “came up trumps,” in relation to funding, Causeway Coast and Glens Council “let us down, big time.”

Council staff are to meet with officials from Frazer Ferries ahead of the 2019 season to discuss all relevant issues including seeking confirmation that contracted operating periods can be met and proposed marketing initiatives.

The council’s marine service has also confirmed that all required dredging works for the Swilly Ferry will be completed before the service commences next June. Council staff will meet with officials from the company in early 2019 to begin preparations fro the new season including agreeing joint marketing initiatives to be undertaken.