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Ferries under threat; Euro laws may hit the Mersey.

Byline: By NEIL HODGSON Industry Reporter

THE Mersey ferries are under threat from proposed European laws.

The new rules would give passengers the same compensation rights as rail and plane travellers and would mean ferry users could claim for delays or cancellations.

The laws are targeted at cross-Channel ferries and large boats on major rivers, but they would also cover the Mersey vessels, making them commercially unviable.

The ferries carry 750,000 foot passengers a year and, if the proposed legislation goes through, the service could be hit hard by compensation claims.

Neil Scales, chief executive of Merseytravel which operates the ferries, has appealed to European MPs for help. In a letter to them he said: "It is not appropriate for something just a mile wide.

"It is OK for cross-Channel ferries, but we would be captured by this legislation. If the ferry could not run because of rough weather, we could be liable to compensatory damages.

"We believe that for services such as the Mersey Ferries, which provide commuter and leisure services, they should not be applied."

The International Association of

Public Transport is also lobbying against the proposals, and in a briefing note to Euro MPs, it argues that heavy-handed legislation could represent a "danger for the economic equilibrium of local and regional waterborne services".

It adds that local transport services are best administered by local interests, not Europe-wide bodies.

"The committee recommends voluntary solutions agreed by undertakings and responsible authorities on local and regional level."

The anti-Europe UK Independent Party has pledged its support for Mr Scales.

Ukip north west MEP, Dr John Whittaker, said: "It would be ridiculous if such legislation affected the Mersey ferries, which not only provide a valuable commuter service but are an internationally loved tourist attraction.

"I will be lobbying government and doing all I can to try and make sure this legislation does not go through."

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Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Oct 4, 2006
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