21/12/2010

Ferry Passengers Defy Travel Chaos

Even snow clouds proved to have a silver lining with news that hundreds of would-be air passengers have abandoned plans to fly home to NI from beleaguered Heathrow and Gatwick airports and are turning to the ferry ports.

A mass return to the traditional method of cross-channel travel - that was virtually the only route for most people a few decades ago - has boosted ferry companies, who have called in additional staff to deal with the flow of passengers anxious to get home to snowy scenes such as this one at Belfast Cave Hill, (pictured by Brian McCalden).

On top of recent news that Stena Line has signed an agreement with DFDS to acquire its Liverpool (Birkenhead) to Belfast and Heysham to Belfast routes in an acquisition, which amounts to approximately £40m, the passenger influx can only round off a good year for the ferries.

Hundreds have given up air travel thanks to frozen runways in Great Britain and have traveled north to the Scottish ports to make it home by the 'traditional route'.
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In business terms, the early December purchase from DFDS means that four ships - which include the chartered Lagan Seaways and Mersey Seaways on the Liverpool-Belfast route and the freight carriers Scotia Seaways and Hibernia Seaways - are all to be taken over by Stena Line.

"We will continue to develop the routes and look at the capacity we will need in the future," said Stena Line Chief Executive Officer, Gunnar Blomdahl.

"During the last 10 years, we have invested approximately €250m in our Irish Sea operations and, going forward, we will continue to invest in the development of our services between Britain and Ireland."

In recent years, Stena Line has invested heavily in significant improvements across the whole of its route network.

Meanwhile, in less positive travel news it has emerged that over 100 terminally ill children from NI have had their hopes of meeting Santa in Lapland at Christmas thwarted.

The atrocious weather forced the Northern Ireland Children to Lapland Trust to call off Wednesday's day trip to the Arctic Circle.

The charity had raised over £100,000 to make the dream trip a reality and it has now been postponed until February.

(BMcC/GK)

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