A DISPUTE has broken out in Swansea about who should be claiming credit for a ferry proposal between South Wales and the South West of England.

Just over a week ago Swansea Labour leader Rob Stewart said the council was planning a hydrogen-powered service across the Bristol Channel. If feasible, he said it would be delivered in conjunction with councils in the South West of England.

It’s very much early days, but Mr Stewart said exploratory meetings had been held with local authorities across the channel.

This week the leader of Swansea Conservatives, Lyndon Jones, said the ferry idea had been put forward by Conservative MP for North Devon, Selaine Saxby.

Mr Jones said she had stood for election in Llanelli in 2015  and knew Swansea well.

He said she raised the ferry idea in the House of Commons after a lot of work, and then arranged a meeting about it with Swansea West’s Labour MP, Geraint Davies, in February 2021.

Mr Jones said:

“Selaine has since organised a meeting with the Secretary of State (Simon Hart), which will be held shortly, with stakeholders from both sides of the water, to which one of a number of people she invited is Rob Stewart as leader of Swansea Council.

“You can only imagine Ms Saxby’s surprise when she heard Labour were claiming credit for her initiative.”

He added:

“Swansea Conservatives totally support this project and thank Selaine for coming up with this, and are pleased that Swansea Labour is supporting this Conservative initiative. Enough of this spin by Labour!”

Mr Stewart said the council had held meetings with councils in the South West of England and MPs earlier this year.

He also shared an email sent by Ms Saxby on April 14 to MPs and council representatives in Devon, plus himself, to confirm that Mr Hart MP had agreed to meet on April 26.

Mr Stewart said it appeared to him that Mr Jones had not been sighted on any of this, and was “late to the party”.

The Labour leader told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that Swansea Council had initiated the “formal discussions”, and stressed that a new ferry link would require collaboration between local authorities and the Welsh and UK Governments.

A fast catamaran ferry service linking Swansea and Ilfracombe in North Devon was proposed several years ago by a company called Severn Link, but it didn’t materialise.

Creating the appropriate docking infrastructure for even relatively small craft would be a key requisite.

Reaction to the ferry proposal was mixed, judging by comments left on Swansea Online’s Facebook group.

David Collett wrote:

“I think it might work for a few smaller passenger ferries but the small harbours over in north Devon and Cornwall haven’t got the facilities for a larger ‘ro ro’ ferry, plus very dependent on tidal conditions over there.”

Val Allen wrote:

“This would be excellent as we always drive, but this would boost the economy and I would for one (would) use this service.”

Ivor Griffiths was less enthusiastic:

“Another great pie in the sky dream from Swansea Council,” he wrote.

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