FERRY FACTS AND FRICTION
October 6 2016.
Rod Main from the Transmanche User's Group (TUG) writes:
Last month I attended a meeting at the RNLI building of the Transmanche Operational Partnership, a loose association of political bodies and other interested parties from both sides of the channel, who are trying to promote the areas and infrastructure around the ferry service.
There were some good ideas, like having joint food and drink festivals, trade fairs and so on, which happen in Normandy and Sussex (not necessarily simultaneously). The obstacles were also discussed; loading/unloading of ferries, parking/storage areas, investment, and the ever “popular” beach and the negative effects that its closure has on Newhaveners' view of the port owners.
There is also the “obstacle” of a court case concerning the way the ferry service is run. In 2014 the Conseil Departmental de Seine-Maritime, (CDSM - now Conseil Regional), failed to find a tender to run the service and were “forced” to extend the contract with the current operator while they found a new solution. In 2015, they thought they had found an alternative way of working which they proposed to DFDS and which was accepted. A new contract was drawn up, (until the end of 2017), and signed. At the beginning of this year, the Conseil found itself on the wrong end of a court case for breaking the rules over how contracts were awarded and how the ferry service was run. In essence, the Syndicat Mixte de Promotion d’Activites Transmanche, (SMPAT), which manages Transmanche on behalf of the Conseil, instructs Transmanche on what to do and all the liabilities for the ferry remain with it. What it “should” do, according to the case, is award the contract to the operator who runs the service and takes on the liabilities. It should also go through a full tendering process every time it needs to draw up a new contract for “public works” (because the Conseil subsidises it). The Court agreed with this view and effectively tore up the contract that the Conseil had made with DFDS and instructed them to do a proper tendering process. They were given six months to redo this. This meant a new contract would have to be in place by the end of July, although being the holiday season, it would more likely be announced in September.
So, come September, and although the Conseil had done as instructed, they also lodged an appeal with the Supreme Court in France. The Supreme Court’s initial view has been that there is a case for appeal and set aside the lower court’s judgement. So the contract has been “sellotaped” back into place until the Supreme Court can hear the case in full. In the meantime, the tendering process has happened, and only one bid has been received – from DFDS. In principle then, whichever way the court case goes, the Conseil has a contract, or can create a new contract, with DFDS to continue running the service for the foreseeable future.
Ultimately, this is good news for the future of the line - even if it looks like a complete dog's breakfast at the moment.
Another up-side is the on-going movement of freight traffic away from the problems in Calais to the calmer environment at Dieppe. This increase in freight could well have a beneficial effect on the future viability of the Newhaven-Dieppe route.
We shall see....