Cash secured for Torbay fast ferry link as part of 'eastern travel corridor'
A HIGH-SPEED ferry service and a green transport plan for school children are in the pipeline for South Devon, thanks to transport funding.
Torbay and Devon councils have scooped millions in Government funding for schemes aimed at reducing the pressure on the road network, bolstering the economy and cutting pollution.
Torbay Council wants to introduce a high-speed ferry service between Torquay and Brixham and Devon County Council is looking at getting more school children to walk, cycle or take the bus to schools in Newton Abbot and Totnes.
The cash came from the second round of grants from the Government's Local Sustainable Transport Fund. Thirty projects nationally were awarded funding by Transport Minister Norman Baker.
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The fast ferry project, led by Torbay Council, secured £2.75million in Whitehall funding and is aimed at halving journey times.
Devon County Council secured £700,000 for its part in a multi-authority scheme encouraging school children to cycle, walk or use public transport to get to school.
In addition to the new fast and frequent ferry link, other measures include a new cycle route, and bus services linking the new ferry to Torquay town centre, Torre Station, Torbay Hospital and the north of the Bay. There will also be apprenticeship opportunities with South Devon College.
The overall aim is to create a new 'eastern travel corridor' across the Bay. The council is putting more than £1.5million into the scheme with further investment expected from the private sector.
Will Ford, the managing director of the Greenway Ferry company, one of the service providers between Torquay and Brixham said: "This is interesting news for the Bay and we will be keenly involved in the tender process."
Bay councillor Robert Excell, executive lead for transport, said: "A lot of hard work went into preparing this bid, and I am pleased those efforts have been rewarded."
Torbay MP Adrian Sanders said: "This investment will provide a brilliant economic and environmental opportunity for the area by boosting growth, while at the same time cutting carbon emissions and traffic congestion."
A spokesman for Stagecoach which carried out fast ferry trials in 2008, said the company was still interested in the scheme.
He added: "We carried out a highly successful fast ferry pilot service across Torbay in 2008, with almost 30,000 passengers using the public transport option during the four-week trial period. We welcome the Government's announcement of capital for infrastructure work and revenue funding to support a long-term ferry link between Torquay and Brixham.
"We look forward to considering in due course the detailed tender specification published by Torbay Council for operation of the service, how best to create local jobs and how a ferry can be integrated with other travel modes."
Andrew Pooley, managing director of the Dartmouth Steam Railway and Riverboat company said: "I think that any investment in the Bay is great news, I question the need for a faster service, but I am sure the market research has been done to substantiate the project.
"I do wonder if the council are prepared to compensate the lease holders for their rents if a business is to receive substantial subsidies for a competing service. I am sure this will all come clear in time as the project is brought to the market. But anything that promotes boat travel gets the thumbs up from me."
Devon County Council's share of the spoils forms part of a £4.9million boost for the Access to Education project.
Estimated congestion costs of travel to and from schools have been put at £3.1million annually.