Select Committee on Welsh Affairs Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Stena Line

INTRODUCTION TO STENA LINE

  Stena Line is an International Transport and Travel Service Company, who are one of the world's largest ferry operators. Together with the wholly owned company Scandlines AB, Stena Line has 16 strategically located ferry routes in Scandinavia and around the UK.

  Stena Line's organisation is strongly decentralised so that business decisions can be made as close to the customer as possible. Each route is responsible for its own result and it's own business plans.

  Operations are divided into four business areas giving Stena Line the right conditions to focus on its business activities. The four business areas are Scandinavia, the North Sea, the Irish Sea and Freight.

  With regard to the Irish Sea Business Unit, Stena Line operates from Stranraer to Belfast, Holyhead to Dublin and Dun Laoghaire and Fishguard to Rosslare.

  Through its subsidiary Company Stena Line Ports Limited, the Company owns the Ports of Stranraer, Fishguard and Holyhead, and provides Port Services to ferry line customers in the Ports principally Stena Line and Irish Ferries.

  Through the Port of Holyhead and Fishguard, if offers gateways to the Republic of Ireland.

HOLYHEAD PORT—GATEWAY TO IRELAND

  Holyhead Port is strategically located and is part of Euroroute 22 linking the Baltic Coast with Ireland. It is a mere 56 sea miles from the Irish Capital City Dublin and via its two ferry operators offers up to 12 ferry crossings a day by conventional ferry and fast ferry.

  Holyhead Port and it's two major customers have since 1995 invested heavily in improved tonnage and facilities for both the freight market and the tourist market and this reinforces Stena Line Ports commitment to this important and strategic route.

  It should be noted that since 1995 Stena investment in Holyhead Port has totalled in excess of GBP110 million (GBP + 55 Million in Port infrastructure and GBP + 65 shipping).

ROAD INFRASTRUCTURE

  The completion of the A55 duelling across Anglesey has been welcomed by the Port Authority and has certainly improved access to Holyhead Town from the North West. It is however of great concern that access/egress from this new road to the Port entrance is still unsuitable for the volumes of traffic handled at certain peak times of the day, it is increasingly becoming a potential growth constraint for the Port.

  It is also a great concern to the Port Authority that the community of Holy Island are also forced to suffer as a result of the traffic congestion at the single carriageway Station Bridge, the congestion effectively divides the Town in two during certain periods of the day.

  Stena Line Ports are in discussion with Anglesey County Council for improvements to this access (The Holyhead Transport & Environmental Package scheme) but improvements are not envisaged for several years, this apart from being a frustration to the travelling public may effectively constrain growth in the Port and Town in the short term.

  The other pinch point on the A55 is the Britannia Bridge between Anglesey and the mainland, which is restricted to one lane in each direction. This is the only single carriageway section between Holyhead and the motorway network.

  Other improvements to the A55 that need to be considered which would improve the real and perceived journey time to Holyhead include removing the roundabouts at Llanfairfechan and Penmaenmawr, improving the junction between the A55 and A483 at Ewloe, and improvements to assist the flow of traffic between Ewloe, Queensferry and the start of the M56.

RAIL INFRASTRUCTURE

  The Holyhead Transport and Environmental Package scheme is currently being progressed in partnerships with Anglesey Council, Welsh Development Agency and Stena Line Ports. This scheme will address social deprivation in the town of Holyhead, improve modal interchange facilities at the Port, and provide a direct cycle/walking link between the port and the town, and will result in improvements to the link between the A55 and the port. The scheme involves significant remodelling of the rail lines in and around the port/station area. In order to progress this issue, Railtrack resources would need to be deployed on signalling work. This would appear to be a stumbling block for the next few years, as Railtrack's resources are committed on Train Protection Warning System (TPWS) and the West Coast Line Upgrade.

  The signalling across Anglesey involves a long block section between Valley and Gaerwen, which means that only one train in each direction can be in this section at any time. As the time taken within this section is approx 20 minutes, late running trains will result in delays to other services, and gives little flexibility for operating trains from to and from various destinations at optimum times for ferry connections.

  First North Western operate a fleet of trains that are capable of speeds of 100 mph on the line to Holyhead, and Virgin Trains will be operating 125 mph tilting trains to Holyhead from May 2003. The line speed from Crewe to Bangor is 90 mph, but from Bangor to Holyhead the line speed is restricted to 75 mph. If Holyhead is to benefit from the improvements to rolling stock, it is imperative that the line from Crewe to Holyhead is upgraded to allow trains to run at 100 mph.

  Conditions and basic customer service functions at Holyhead railway station are also of great concern to the Port Authority and given the numbers of passengers using the link to Ireland it should at least match the service offered by the Port and it's two ferry operators. Despite many meetings with the train operating companies it is becoming apparent that rail franchise issues are getting in the way of customer service improvements and investments. Investments by First North Western on station improvements are now on hold until franchise has been awarded, this is believed to be 2004.

  As a visitors first impression of Wales it is our view that the present "Dickensian" railway platform at Holyhead should at the very least be brought up to the standards of other main line stations in the North West with Customer Service, cleanliness and communication being prioritised.

  Although Holyhead Port does not have a rail freight facility at present it is an ambition of the Port long term to have in place such a facility. In its attempt to facilitate rail freight terminal in the future the Holyhead Transport and Environmental Package scheme includes a provision that ensures that rail lines can be placed to the deep-water berths at Salt Island. It is Stena Line understanding that to make best use of any rail freight facility track changes along the North Wales coast would be required.

Captain Wyn Parry

Ship Operations and Port Manager

2 May 2002





 
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