THE Ilfracombe to South Wales ferry link will not happen until year, it has been announced. Operator Severn Link said today (Wednesday) that a delay in setting up landing facilities and an overnight lay-over berth in Swansea meant there was little choice

THE Ilfracombe to South Wales ferry link will not happen until next year, it has been announced.

Operator Severn Link said today (Wednesday) that a delay in setting up landing facilities and an overnight lay-over berth in Swansea meant there was little choice but to put full launch back until 2011.

Managing director Geoff Metcalfe said while it might be possible to run some limited trial services later this year, the full launch - including ferries from Ilfracombe to Swansea and Penarth - would have to wait.

"This is bitterly disappointing but, unfortunately out of our control," he said.

"Although both ferries are up and running and have undertaken sea-trials, without appropriate landing facilities we clearly cannot operate or be granted a full licence by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA.)

"Services are set to run between Ilfracombe and Swansea and, following the unprecedented level of interest, planning for further services between Cardiff (Penarth,) Ilfracombe and Minehead is well underway.

"But no services can run until appropriate, MCA approved landing facilities and an overnight lay-over berth, which acts as the company's official operating point, have been completed at Swansea."

The ferry service had been eagerly awaited in North Devon, but an initial launch date of Easter this year was later changed to "the spring" and as June dragged by, many on both sides of the channel were beginning to wonder what had happened.

According to Severn Link, it now seems likely that all the routes will be launched at the same time next year.

"Although we have had excellent support from Swansea City Council they have been unable to complete the facilities as expected," added Geoff Metcalfe.

"We have been offered a temporary berth from August, but this is so late in the season, that by the time the MCA have had a chance to do their final checks and we've run our trials from this point, we will be well into the autumn.