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STENA ALL AT SEA OVER HSS; Ferry firm to axe sailings on fast ship by half due to high fuel costs.

Byline: VICTORIA McMAHON

SAILINGS on the popular Belfast-Stranaer HSS service are being slashed in half - with ferry bosses claiming it's too expensive to run.

Struggling under the burden of rising fuel costs, Stena's high-speed cataraman car ferry will now do only two return crossings of the North Channel to Scotland instead of its current four.

The changes will be introduced on November 11 when a newly refurbished conventional ferry, The Stena Navigator, will come online to pick up the slack.

However, Stena bosses yesterday sought to allay the fears of the thousands of Celtic and Rangers fans who use the high-speed sea service every week.

Ferry chiefs assured them that the HSS will still depart Belfast at 11.45am and 5pm every day, thus enabling followers of the teams to catch a 7.30pm kick-off in Glasgow and still make it back to Stranraer for the late HSS sailing.

The conventional ferries on the route - Stena Navigator and Stena Caledonia - will offer 12 other crossings throughout the day, a journey that takes 50 minutes longer than the HSS.

But Paul Grant, route manager for Belfast to Stranraer, said there were no plans to scrap the HSS service altogether. He added: "There are no plans at present to remove the HSS from service on the Belfast-Stranraer route and as stated, she will continue to operate alongside the Stena Navigator and Stena Caledonia.

The new Stena Navigator is currently nearing the finishing stages of a pounds 6million makeover in time for its launch next month.

Mr Grant said: "The addition of the Stena Navigator means we will now be using the HSS more efficiently."

"It has been well documented that the HSS is expensive to run, so it makes sound economic sense, especially with oil prices continuing to rise again, that we operate it at times when the capacity is high.

"They now have a choice of travelling on the Stena HSS fastcraft or the Stena Navigator and Stena Caledonia superferries.

"We will be continuing to provide the best customer service between Northern Ireland and Scotland."

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GAS GUZZLER Stena HSS fast ferry
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Oct 30, 2009
Words:352
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