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MP Issues Warning To Government Transport Chiefs

drax on bristows

10:05am 23rd December 2013
(Updated 1:03pm 23rd December 2013)

Richard Drax, Member of Parliament for South Dorset, has met the managing director of Bristow Helicopters Ltd, the company which has won the new Government contract to run national Search and Rescue (SAR) helicopter services.

The meeting, the latest stage of the MP's long running campaign to retain the Portland SAR helicopter, was held between Richard Drax, Mike Imlach, Director of European Operations for Bristow, and a Department for Transport (DfT) representative.

'I was grateful to Mr Imlach for coming to Westminster,' says Drax, 'And I congratulated him upon Bristow's success in winning the contract. I have absolutely no problem with Bristow or Mr Imlach. Bristow is an outstandingly  professional and well-run company and I have no doubt that it will discharge its duties supremely well.'

'The problem is that those duties, which were drawn up and specified by the DfT, fall short of what is needed. Twenty five per cent of all call outs in the UK happen in our area. All of those must be attended to within what the emergency services call the 'golden hour.'  That is the first hour, after which casualties' chances of survival decrease with time.'

'Regrettably, the new arrangements ensure that two of the 'alternate' helicopters at Lee on Solent and Culdrose will take about 40 and 55 minutes, respectively, to start up and arrive on station. The likelihood of anyone in the water surviving is therefore, correspondingly lower.'

'Bristow helicopters tendered for a contract which had 10 helicopter bases, rather than the current 12. They won the contract to run those 10 bases and I am sure they will do that to the best of their ability. But I felt it was important to explain just what we were losing at Portland, and exactly how much harder it will be for Bristow to cover our area effectively.'

'I did make it clear to the representative from the DfT that any loss of life as a result of closing Portland would be seen as a complete dereliction of duty by the DfT. They have been warned repeatedly that there is a massive hole at the centre of their calculations. Yet they have persisted with this plan.'

'The DfT representative agreed to convey my points back to the Minister.'

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