The Isle of Man Steam Packet Company has confirmed passenger numbers for the 2017 TT are up on the figures from last year.
The ferry company carried 14,037 motorcycles, a 6% increase on 2016, and 36,500 passengers, a rise of 2.8% on last year. Figures for cars, vans and trailers were also higher, up 1.8% to 4,481.
Ben-my-Chree and fast craft Manannan worked around the clock during the annual motorcycle racing festival to carry fans to the Isle of Man from Heysham, Liverpool, Belfast and Dublin. MV Arrow provided vital freight capacity, freeing up vehicle deck space on Ben-my-Chree.
In 2016 passenger numbers fell compared with previous years as P&O fast craft Express was no longer available for charter, reducing capacity. However this year’s figures have returned to 2015 levels, with the number of passengers carried actually ahead of two years ago.
Isle of Man Steam Packet Company Chief Executive Mark Woodward said: ‘Demand to travel to the TT remains extremely high and we have been working hard to meet that demand. We have mitigated the loss of P&O Express through significant investment in our own fleet, including the long-term charter of MV Arrow to provide freight support, the introduction of a removable mezzanine deck for Manannan, to allow more motorcycles to be carried, and the installation over the winter of additional seating in our fast craft.
‘As a result, passenger figures for the 2017 TT are up on last year and on a par with the numbers carried in 2014 and 2015. In fact, this year’s numbers are higher than the figures recorded for more than a decade prior to 2014, with the exception of the Centenary TT in 2007.’
He added: ‘When bookings for the 2018 TT opened last month we handled more than 5,000 bookings on the first day, a significant increase on the same day last year, so there is clearly increasing demand to attend the event.
‘We have long-recognised this growth potential and invested substantially in our fleet to try and meet demand. The need for greater capacity to allow the TT to continue to grow was recognised in the offer we made to the Isle of Man Government last year to continue providing the Island’s seas services after 2026.
‘As part of our proposed Strategic Sea Services Offer we intend to invest £120m in replacing Manannan and Ben-my-Chree with larger vessels featuring enhanced passengers facilities and increased capacity, and also retain the Ben as a back-up vessel and to operate passenger services during periods of high demand, such as TT and the Festival of Motorcycling.
‘This represents a large financial commitment by the Company but it is essential the Isle of Man has the ferry fleet it needs to meet not only current requirements and future demand for travel and freight, but also greater resilience and self-reliance in terms of back-up vessels.
‘We look forward to our offer being fully considered by the Island’s parliament, Tynwald, in the near future.’