Subsidy sought to float Foyle Ferry

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

There is uncertainty over the future of the Foyle Ferry, with ‘no decision’ yet made on whether the current operator will continue the service next year.

Speculation mounted over the weekend regarding whether Frazer Ferries, who operated the service for the first time this summer, would renew their contract for the Greencastle to Magilligan service next year.

But, speaking to the ‘Journal’ yesterday, Frazer Ferries director Paul O’Sullivan refuted any speculation and said no decision had been made.

He said that, as a company, they were very willing to continue with the service and had received “great feedback” on their operation over the summer.

However, he confirmed that, while giving an overview of the season’s performance to both councils recently, the company informed them that due to the short time frame of operation over the summer, the service had operated at a loss.

Mr O’Sullivan said that they asked both councils to consider, “in an effort to ensure a long-term service into the future,” that they as a private operator would need to be given some financial assistance while they “execute” their business plan over the next two years.

Mr O’Sullivan stressed that this was only asked as a consideration and no pressure was put on the councils to do so.

Mr O’Sullivan outlined how the time frame from the awarding of the contract to the end of the summer season was very short.

Therefore, they did not “get the chance to execute” their business plan “as much as we would like to.”

“Time was against us,” he said, adding that due to operating a “high quality, more frequent service” they also didn’t operate their marketing plan as they wished.

Despite this, he said they received “excellent” feedback from the two councils and were applauded for their “quality, consistency and price.”

He added how, when they “added it all up,” the company did lose money while operating the service during the summer, “although that’s not to say it is a loss-making venture.”

Mr O’Sullivan said while no pressure was put on either council to provide a financial subsidy, they presented the results and overview of the season to them and asked them to “consider,” in an effort to ensure the long-term viability of the service for the company, to give some financial assistance as they execute their business plan over the next two years.

He said he did not see a subsidy being needed in the long term.

Donegal County Council had not responded to questions from the ‘Journal’ as we went to press yesterday.