Are ferry fares fair?

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From Jonathan Brodie Dyer.

RECENTLY a friend told me about our local car ferry operator deciding to put on an early-morning sailing to St Malo for those of us that don’t mind an early start to our day.

Great, I thought, I’ll book a short break and take my car to soak up a bit of French culture.

On checking the operator’s website, all the 5.15 am sailings are £115 one way, with return sailings averaging out at £135, so for me to travel (not even at peak times) it would cost approximately £250 for two days, not including any fuel charges or hidden extras that may be added along the way.

Looking again at the website, just in case I had missed any special offers, I was surprised to see that there was an offer for a car and two adults to St Malo for £96 each way, but – here we go again – not from Jersey, but from the UK, and at a saving of almost £60 for a ferry journey taking almost four times as long.

My point is that yet again the residents of Jersey appear to be being held to ransom by our one and only car ferry operator and, as there is no competition or choice, anyone wishing to travel to France either has to decide not to do so, or has to pay these over inflated prices.

When will the States of Jersey, and the so-called Competition Regulator, carry out a full and detailed review of the charges levied by this ferry company and, better still, open up the routes to an operator that will give the residents of Jersey (and the other Islands) the service they require and deserve.

On another note, having recently travelled on the aforementioned ferry, my advice to other travellers would be to take your own supplies and not pay through the nose for what is generally served up as sub-standard food at over inflated prices.

I would welcome comments from any of the parties concerned, as I’m sure others would.

Simon Edsall, Condor Ferries’ managing director, responded as follows:

LAST month, to satisfy increased customer demand, Condor Ferries launched additional sailings to St Malo that will allow an extra 3,700 cars and 34,000 passengers to travel between the Channel Islands and France over the peak summer season.

These new sailings are predominantly at the weekends and have greatly increased opportunities for residents to take a break in France in August and September.

Since May this year, all Condor passengers benefit from clear transparent pricing as we consolidated the fuel surcharge into the overall ticket price.

There are no hidden charges on Condor Ferries. Indeed our foot passengers can take a generous luggage allowance and car passengers have the added benefit of being able to simply load up their car once and unload at their final destination.

The prices outlined in your correspondent’s letter reflect their chosen travel dates at the busiest time of the year. Furthermore, we know that our customers have a choice to travel by air or sea from Jersey to Brittany, and comparable flights for a weekend break in August for two people from Jersey to Dinard take longer than the ferry and are significantly more expensive, even before you add the cost of a hire car.

Condor Ferries’ fares vary by the time and day of sailing and, at the time of writing, there are crossings this August at the weekends from Jersey to St Malo from £85 for a car and two adults one way. Generally, passengers who book early or can travel outside the weekends in the busy summer months will benefit from lower prices.

Recently, we promoted a special offer price from the UK to France at £196 return on our website, but this has been removed as it is not available for bookings made now for travel in the high summer.

In the low season months, as many residents who travel with us to the UK or France will know, some sailings have few passengers between the islands and the UK. It’s at this time of the year that we may make use of promotional fares from the UK to France, as these incremental travellers help to make the overall service viable.

We have recently launched new year-round promotional fares and you might have seen them advertised in the local papers or on our website. The new Superbreak is aimed at Jersey residents who want to take a short break in the UK for just £90 for a car and two adults each way.

Wherever possible, the refreshments served on Condor Ferries are locally sourced. On Condor 10, between Jersey and St Malo, food is mostly prepared in France and the prices are comparable to those in the high street.

I believe Condor Ferries is offering an outstanding choice to Jersey residents wanting to travel to St Malo this summer, with up to four departures a day, and that the fares for the high season are competitive.

I am glad that we have been able to increase capacity in response to customer demand and am confident that Jersey residents travelling to France with us this summer will enjoy their trip.

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