Norway-England ferry 'could make a comeback'

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Photo: Bjorn Erik Pedersen
12:44 CEST+02:00
Passengers might soon be able to travel by ferry between Norway and England for the first time in three years, if reported plans by a group of 'shipping heavyweights' come to fruition.

The route, between Bergen and Newcastle, is being planned by a group including publicly listed companies, according to Bergen newspaper

The consortium, which is so far not talking publicly about its plans, reportedly intends to launch the service next year. Ole Warberg, Managing Director of Visit Bergen, told The Local that he was aware that talks were underway, but injected a note of caution:


"It's very premature to be talking about the route coming back," he said, adding that the information relating to the new consortium was sensitive and that he didn't want to jeopardize the plans.


"I have been in contact with five or six companies interested in setting up the route since 2008, including two different consortiums in the past two months. Some of those who have been in contact with me have big plans but small money, some have small plans but big money."


Tourism officials on both sides of the North Sea say a new ferry line would provide an economic boost:


"From our perspective it would be great. It's important not only for tourism, but also for business and freight," Kim Lovlie, at the Oslo office of official British tourism promoter Visit Britain, told The Local.


"There are plenty of destination companies in the UK looking to promote Norway, and a lot of tourists in Norway who want to take a car over and visit the UK. A ferry would also have an impact on the trade links between Norway and the UK, as freight on vans currently has to come via Europe," Lovlie said.


DFDS Seaways scrapped its Bergen-Newcastle service in 2008, blaming higher oil prices and the economic downturn. 


The axing of the route is estimated by local officials to have cost the western Norwegian tourism industry 90,000 guest nights in 2009. Officials in the Newcastle region said before the route was closed that it would cost the local economy £10 million a year. 


A report in 2010 from accountants PWC said that relaunching the route could be profitable if smaller, more fuel-efficient ships were used.


Politicians and business groups in Norway and the UK have been lobbying for the route to be relaunched ever since:


"We are not aware of any concrete plans, but we have always said that we would be very happy to see a new link between Newcastle and Bergen." said Sarah Stewart, chief executive of tourism promotion agency NewcastleGateshead Initiative.


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