COUNCIL chiefs have welcomed news that the future of the Newhaven to Dieppe ferry service could be safe for a further four years.
The cross channel route has been in doubt since a French court ruled that the service must be put out to tender, following a complaint about the contract between Syndicat Mixte de Promotion de l’Activité Transmanche (SMPAT) and operator DFDS.
At the recent Transmanche Operational Partnership (TOP) – a meeting of partners with interest in securing the future of the line, which includes East Sussex County Council and Lewes District Council – it was confirmed that at least one bid had been received by the French authorities to date. This, along with the promise of an annual subsidy of more than £15million, means this vital cross channel service is set to continue.
Cllr Rupert Simmons, lead member for economy, said: “We are delighted that the route’s future looks more secure, and we expect the new contract to be signed with the successful operator announced early autumn.
“This service is vital for the port of Newhaven, the county and country as a whole. The continuation this year of three daily crossings during summer will bring trade and tourism into East Sussex and a welcome economic boost to the area.”
Cllr Andy Smith, leader of Lewes District Council, added: “This proposed extension to the ferry line is great news for Newhaven and for Lewes district in general. It will offer a great boost to local trade and businesses and will offer tourists the continued opportunity to visit our beautiful coastline and historic towns.”
Securing the ferry route will enhance the efforts being made to transform and regenerate the Newhaven area. To date more than £80million has been invested or committed in the area.
East Sussex County Council has itself committed investment of £13million in the development of the Newhaven Port Access Road. The funding, along with a further £10million from the Coast 2 Capital Local Enterprise Partnership (C2C LEP), will improve access to the ferry service and significantly open up land for employment space – creating up to 620 jobs.
A further £200,000 has already helped to improve bus stop facilities and links between the railway station and local bus services and links to the new Newhaven University Technical College (UTC), while walking and cycling routes between Newhaven and Peacehaven have also been improved.
Other schemes that will unlock the potential for further housing and commercial growth include a £13m project to alleviate flooding at key sites, Network Rail’s £30m improvements to signalling and the train stations, the purchase of Newhaven Square by Lewes District Council, Newhaven Port and Properties plans to build new port facilities at East Quay and the approval of the Newhaven Enterprise Zone (NEZ) – which will be a catalyst in attracting business investment.
Cllr Simmons added: “A great deal of investment is being made to ensure that Newhaven continues to flourish, with more jobs being created, training and education opportunities being made available and better transport links for the town.
“We are working tirelessly with partners to identify and deliver strategic infrastructure investment into Newhaven and hope that the cross-channel ferry service will continue to support the regeneration of the area.”
The date for tenders for the ferry service contract has now closed and an announcement is expected in early autumn.