National Ferry Fortnight/ travel in the Channel Islands

[this blog first appeared on greentraveller]

Taking the  Condor Ferry to the Channel Islands. Photo: Philippa   JacksSurvey results released this week as part of National Ferry Fortnight (organised by the Passenger Shipping Association) reveal why passengers choose to travel by ferry instead of flying.

The convenience of taking their own car came out top, with 55% saying this was an important factor. The lack of luggage restrictions (i.e. the convenience of piling your car high with buckets and spades) was very important for 44% of passengers. I presume the Passenger Shipping Association didn’t have any green travellers onboard that day, as carbon footprint wasn’t mentioned at all!

This got me thinking about the convenience of travelling by ferry as a foot passenger and – since I’ve just visited Jersey and Guernsey – travelling from Poole to the Channel Islands in particular.

Car-free on the Channel Islands

It’s fairly easy to go car-free once you’ve reached the Channel Islands. The ferry terminals on both islands are a short walk from the town centre so you can easily hop onto a bus; there are comprehensive bus routes and timetables online for both Jersey and Guernsey. There are also bike hire centres just a few minutes walk from the ferry terminals on both islands, like Zebra Hire on the Esplanade in St Helier, Jersey.

Sunset on board the ferry to Guernsey. Photo: Philippa Jacks

My experience onboard both Condor Vitesse and Condor Express was excellent: both clean and fresh, with a small duty free shop, a kids’ room with TV, and a cafeteria. There were all the usual comforts of ferry travel over air travel, but travelling to and between the Channel Isles was a particular treat in terms of scenery – as we came into Guernsey’s St Peter Port at 7pm it was like a sunset island cruise.

The terminal on Jersey was impressive, with a good little restaurant, outdoor seating, and a souvenir shop/newsagent before you pass through security. Guernsey was less developed –  the shutters of the snack kiosk remained resolutely down the whole time we were waiting so we couldn’t even buy a drink. Still, playing pool while we waited was a novelty.

The most frustrating part of the journey as a foot passenger, however, was not on the islands but in Poole on the mainland. The transfer from Poole train station to Poole ferry terminal was a 20-25 minute walk which was no fun with heavy luggage and a short time-frame. We ended up having to jump in a taxi across town instead, costing an extra £7 and adding to the rush-hour traffic across the city.

Poole can’t help the fact that its station and ferry terminal are not closer together, but in Southampton they get around the problem by providing a free shuttle bus from Southampton Central train station to Red Funnel’s Town Quay ferry terminal.

I’d like to see the authorities in Poole show a similar commitment to helping people reach the Channel Islands car free.

Ferry travel may well be the convenient choice for those travelling by car – but how about making it easier for those of us who want to go on foot?

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