�2.8million funding bid for sea bus service
Seaton and Lyme amongst Jurassic Coast resorts set to benefit from seaborne transport network
A �2.8million bid has been launched to help establish a seaborne transport network along the Jurassic Coast.
If the funding is approved Seaton and Lyme Regis will be amongst resorts expected to benefit from a huge tourism boost the service is likley to bring.
The Jurassic Coast Partnership has applied for the money from the Big Lottery Coastal Communities Fund to help develop marine links at both the western and eastern end of the 95-mile long World Heritage Site.
Travelling by sea has long been talked about on the Jurassic Coast, with seaside communities firmly behind the idea.
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Officials say waterborne passenger transport could help relieve congestion, particularly in the summer, boost the local economy, create jobs and encourage new and repeat visits by tourists, as well as offering a possible alternative to commuters along some parts of the coast.
Extensive market research has been undertaken to identify whether visitors and locals would be inclined to travel by sea. Some 94 per cent of people who responded were interested in using marine transport, given a vessel appropriate to the sea conditions. A detailed feasibility study, in 2010, identified potential pilot projects.
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The funding sought from the Coastal Communities Fund would allow the initial development of two of the pilot projects identified in the feasibility report.
In the west, a coastal hopper service will be looked at, operating between Exmouth and West Bay and servicing Sidmouth, Seaton, Lyme Regis.
In the east, a service is proposed between Bournemouth, Poole, Sandbanks, Studland and Swanage.
The long-term success of any such project will depend on a public/private sector partnership but it is hoped the funding could help develop the infrastructure required and go some way towards creating a sustainable service, linking with land-based transport and offering an enhanced, reliable and realistic alternative to road travel.
Two new working groups have been established in both the west and the east, co-ordinated by the Jurassic Coast Team, which is funded by Dorset and Devon county councils, and chaired by independent volunteers.
John Wokersien, chairman of the Western Group, said: “Locals will well remember the steamers that used to ply the coast within living memory. With new ways of thinking and modern innovation it is surely the right time to bring back scheduled marine transport to our coast.”
Devon highways and transportation spokesman Stuart Hughes said: “This project will make the most of our stunning coastline and will promote sustainable economic growth by enabling people to explore the area. The local community is behind this project and there’s great potential for this service to support tourism and local businesses, so everyone is committed to this bid.”