The States of Guernsey and the States of Jersey have identified Manche Iles-Express as the preferred bidder for the inter-island passenger ferry service.
No formal decision has been made yet and both islands have entered "further discussion" with Manche Iles-Express and hope to have an "enhanced" service in place by May.
In total, nine expressions of interests, and two formal tender submissions, were received. Whilst the Manche Iles-Express submission did not fully meet the scheduling requirements set out in the Invitation to Tender (ITT), it represents in the region of 25,000 extra seats. Their proposal would not however require financial support or underwriting from the States of Jersey and Guernsey.
Senator Lyndon Farnham, Minister for Economic Development, Tourism, Sport and Culture in Jersey, said: "Improving the connectivity opportunities between the Islands remains a clear focus and the proposal under consideration represents a clear improvement on the options available in 2017. It is a good start, but clearly there is still work to be done to secure the maximum opportunities for both islands."
Deputy Charles Parkinson, President of the Committee for Economic Development in Guernsey, added: "The tender process has given a good opportunity to improve inter-island connectivity for the summer with an additional 25,000 seats. We will be working hard with the preferred supplier to maximise this opportunity if at all possible – which includes the feasibility of providing additional services to Alderney."
The French company has been operating a connection between Normandy and the Channel Islands and an inter-island service since 2005, and has seen increasing figures over the last seven years.
Hughes-Robert Gros, Manche Iles Express Managing Director, revealed last September that they were to bid on the inter-island service. He said: "We have been providing a regular service for the past four years and the number of passengers is ever increasing. We have two boats which are permanently either in Jersey or Guernsey and currently able to cater relatively well for the market. We are waiting to see exactly what the States want and will make an offer accordingly, if we think it is appropriate.
"We could significantly improve the service simply by strengthening the existing one and for less, since we already have two boats and wouldn't need to bring any over. With the changes we are bringing in next year, we are, in a sense, responding to the States' demand ahead of time."
This year, the operator doubled the number of its crossings between Jersey and Guernsey: twice a week from April to September, on Tuesdays and Thursdays or Fridays. In addition, it will also operate a double ferry service on Saturdays to cover Guernsey and Jersey local markets with early departures from both islands, once a month in May, June and September and twice a month in July and August.
The price for a return ticket in 2017 varied between £27 and £36 for an adult and between £19 and £24 for a child depending on availability. Most of the sailings in 2017 were 52% full with an average of 130 passengers on a 250-seat vessel.
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