A VITAL piece of machinery that has cost Portsmouth taxpayers millions of pounds has been officially opened by a government minister.
Yesterday Portsmouth International Port unveiled its new £9m linkspan, a hydraulic platform that allows two levels of vehicles to disembark ferries.
The state-of-the-art equipment replaced a linkspan that had been in place for 27 years.
Shipping minister, Nusrat Ghani MP, believed it would improve the port's efficiency. She said: 'It's a fantastic investment because it's a great piece of kit. It enables the ferries to have two levels of cars coming off at the same time so it saves a huge amount of time and makes the port even more efficient than it already is.
'I've had a fantastic day here in Portsmouth to hear about this fantastic bridge and the investment going forward in the port and the huge amount of work it's doing not only for the port but for the community as well.'
More than £500,000 of the platform's cost was covered by the Interreg 2 Seas Programme, with the remaining cash provided by Portsmouth City Council.
Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, the council's leader, said: 'The old one was at the end of its life. The port needed a new one. The council has invested in the port over many years as it has run the port for more than 40 years.
'As well as providing jobs and supporting the local economy the port also generates income to support council services. The new linkspan helps ensure the port can continue to operate with such a quick turnaround for passengers and cargo and maintain its position as the most successful municipal port in the country.'
However Labour MP and councillor Stephen Morgan thought the port needed government backing to continue its profitability. He said: 'The port’s success is well and truly Portsmouth’s success, and I’m proud that our city is home to the greatest municipal port in the country.
'As it’s owned by the council, the port helps fund local public services and boosted our council budget by £7.8 million in 2017 and 2018 alone. I’ve made it clear to the government that improvements to the port are an investment in our entire city.
'It’s now high-time for central government to follow the LEP and EU in promoting our success with hard cash - the port is a proven engine for local growth, it deserves proper backing.
'PIP is our city’s link to international commerce and is absolutely central to engagement in the global economy. That’s why programmes like the new linkspan are so important. The International Port is a real Portsmouth success story, but we need government investment to make sure it continues to drive growth long into the future.'