|The UK edition 1 of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company's 2005 timetable brochure is now available, though it is understood that the Isle of Man edition will not be available until next week. This timetable covers timings for routes from Heysham and Liverpool to Douglas. |
The presentation of the actual timetables is disappointing, breaking from the method used in previous years in which tariff colour coded times were shown against dates. Now a list of times is given along the left side of a grid with colour coded tariff codes shown against days of operation. Given that the brochure extends to 16 pages there is no excuse for condensing the timetable information into just two pages of small tables which lack the clarity of previous years' publications.
Perhaps this less than clear presentation was intentional so to conceal some significant service cuts on the Liverpool route?
Observing the pattern of service during the 2005 season operated on the Liverpool - Douglas route it would appear that there will be fewer opportunities for long day trips to the Isle of Man from Liverpool as the only evening on which a late return from Douglas generally operates is Wednesday. There is a late return on Sunday, but then there isn't an 07.00 sailing from Douglas that day or a 10:30 to Douglas. The single return Douglas - Liverpool trip varies between 14:00 - early shoulder, 18:00, late shoulder and 21:00 high season.
A shorter day trip will be available on Saturdays with a return departure from Douglas to Liverpool at 17:30. This sailing it must be said should prove of interest to those people who rely on public transport to get to Liverpool and found the post midnight day excursion return arrival far too late. However, 17:30 is really an hour too early.
The last sailing to Liverpool on Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays during the season to Liverpool will be at 14:00. This is a serious loss of facility - and one wonders what the Isle of Man Government's response may be with the prospect of fewer visitors? On Thursdays it is possible to have a longer trip to Douglas, but who would want really to arrive at 03:30 - the time the Thursday's only 01:00 sailing is due to arrive, departure of course would be at 14:00
It appears that there are no summer fast craft sailings to and from Heysham except at night during the TT festival. TT festival services are also marked "subject to change".
The loss of Monday, Thursdays and Friday afternoon sailings from Isle of Man to Liverpool and the Sunday morning sailing suggests that these slots will cover the Douglas - Dublin / Belfast routes.
There are also significant cuts in the autumn shoulder period which see the LADY OF MANN return to service earlier than in previous years. It had been expected that the LADY OF MANN would bow out after TT 2005 but she continues to feature in the timetable.
Fast craft sailings between Liverpool and Douglas will end at the second weekend in October . There will be no morning sailing from Liverpool to Douglas at 10:30 after October 08. The LADY OF MANN will operate most days in October offering an 08:00 ex Douglas and 19:00 return, except on Fridays and Sundays when the outward sailing from Douglas will be at 13:45
The timetable as published can clearly be operate by two ships - BEN-MY-CHREE and either a fast craft - presumably SUPERSEACAT TWO or the LADY OF MANN.
Now comes a further interesting point to be considered. None of the above schedules involve the use of a seasonal Liverpool based fast craft.
The usual pictures of SSC2 appear on cover and inside the new Isle of Man Timetable. On the vessel's side the artist has applied a large STEAM PACKET COMPANY logo. On one view she carries the name "SUPERSEACAT" in the other she is anonymous.
The full picture will not emerge until the IOM edition of the timetable appears and any further information becomes available. It should also be noted that this is Edition 1 of the timetable and that further changes may be made.
However, it looks as though the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company is going to celebrate its 175 Anniversary with a return to the old pre-Sea Containers days of managing a shrinking service and almost completely ignoring day excursion traffic from the UK.
As it stands now, the timetable will be a great disappointment not only to UK ship enthusiasts but also to others who would like to take short trips to the Isle of Man. It is not good news for the Isle of Man tourist industry.
Subscribers to the Irish Sea Ships Yahoo Group can download extracts from these timetables from the files area and draw their own conclusions.
LIVERPOOL - DUBLIN 2005?
Now whilst Liverpool - Dublin service has never been shown in the IOM timetables, the route is usually mentioned as is the availability of the "Rover Ticket" on this route. In this timetable there is absolutely NO mention of a Liverpool - Dublin service in the timetable. Liverpool - Dublin is not shown on the company's route map in the timetable although Douglas - Dublin and Douglas - Belfast are shown. The UK timetable states "Don't forget you can travel onward from the Isle of Man to Belfast or Dublin on Steam Packet Company routes". Strange that the Liverpool - Dublin link should be completely ignored, unless of course some significant change is planned.
The failure to mention Liverpool - Dublin could mean one of several things:
- Liverpool - Dublin will be operated in isolation with no interchange of vessels with Liverpool - Isle of Man though one would expect it to be mentioned in the Steam Packet timetable.
- The Liverpool - Dublin route will be transferred to another operator.
- Abandoned completely. There have also been rumours of its complete abandonment, though this would appear unlikely.
It would appear that scenario 2 - transfer to a new operator would be the most likely outcome. Who that operator will be is anyone's guess as is the ship to be used on the route. There were rumours on the waterfront the other week that SUPERSTAR EXPRESS would operate for the Steam Packet perhaps its destined for a new Liverpool - Dublin operator? What ever the outcome a surprise is in store.