P&O Ferries has announced that it will axe its Larne to Troon ferry route with immediate effect.
In a statement released this morning, the company described the route as “loss-making” and revealed that it had come to the decision after a
“comprehensive review of its options.”
Yesterday the Larne Times exclusively reported that the cut was likely to take place.
“P&O Ferries has proudly operated this additional seasonal route since 2003, but the stark reality is that the company is continuing to make significant losses, and sadly the income from ticket sales is not sufficient to cover the annual vessel and port operating costs,” said the statement.
“In a final attempt to make the route economic the company reduced the service in the off-peak months last year, whilst maintaining the full service in the peak months of July and August.
“Whilst this measure did significantly reduce the operating costs, the route remained loss-making.”
P&O said that since the last sailing at the end of September, it had continued to negotiate with a number of suppliers and other organisations, as well as searching for a lower-cost chartered fast-craft to be able to continue, but had been “unable to develop a solution for the company.”
The firm added that there would be no redundancies as a result of the move, with all permanent staff being found alternative roles within the company.
P&O also confirmed it will continue to operate its full Larne-Cairnryan route services “throughout 2016 and into the future.”
It stated: “For customers, the company has confirmed that in 2016 the P&O Larne-Cairnryan service will continue to operate up to seven sailings each way every day of the year, maintaining its reliable service for freight, tourist and domestic customers, on what is still the shortest and most frequent crossing between Northern Ireland and Scotland.”
The firm also plans to spend £500,000 on on-board improvements of its European Highlander and European Causeway vessels, and will add over 50 seats to each ship.
“The company believes that this decision will enable a more secure future for its employees and for its customers on the northern corridor,” the statement concluded.
East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson said that he was “disappointed” at P&O’s decision to discontinue the Larne-Troon service, which he described as “popular”, particularly with those travelling to Glasgow, as it cut down the distance to travel by road.
“I am aware that the company had been making efforts to secure a smaller, or more cost-effective ship for the route and unfortunately that has not been possible,” he added.
“The challenge for P&O now is to attract new business.
“There is an upturn in the economy but they will, of course, be in competition for any new business with the ports in Belfast and Warrenpoint and even Dublin.
“I am pleased that P&O has given an indication that they will continue to invest in the Larne-Cairnryan route by adding seats to accommodate more passengers, as well as upgrading facilities to make their ferries more attractive,” he concluded.
East Antrim DUP MLA Gordon Lyons added: “As someone who wants to see the development of the tourist and economic potential of the Larne area it is obviously disappointing to see the service between Larne and Troon being cut.
“Of course we want to maintain and increase the number of transport connections that we have, however it is clear that P&O need to make decisions based on the economic realities that they face and I welcome the actions that were taken to try to ensure the profitability of the route.
“Whilst this decision is not good news, I am pleased that the company is continuing to invest in the Larne-Cairnryan route and are improving facilities for passengers.
“This, along with the additional business that the Port of Larne had secured in 2015, demonstrates that the port will continue to be important to our local economy.”
East Antrim Alliance MLA Stewart Dickson commented: “This is a disappointing development for Larne and its harbour, however I do recognise that P&O is simply responding to the economic conditions which make the route unprofitable to run.
“Furthermore, P&O have informed me that they did make serious attempts to continue the route, through the procurement of lower cost chartered fast-
craft, but this has been unsuccessful.
“Nonetheless, I welcome P&O’s continued commitment to Larne, with £500,000 of investment being put into their Cairnryan-bound vessels over the next 18 months, as well as the development of new business in the Port of Larne.
“The Port is a vital gateway to East Antrim, and key to developing our industry through freight connections, but also by delivering tourists to our great attractions such as the Glens, the Gobbins Path and Carrickfergus Castle.”