DRIVERS stranded on a Northumberland causeway have cost a charity rescue service up to £130,000 over the past five years.
Motorists are regularly caught out when attempting to negotiate the causeway linking Holy Island to the mainland outside safe crossing times, when their vehicles become trapped in the rising tide.
This happens despite warning signs on the causeway.
Drivers are rescued by local coastguards and, if the water is deep enough, the Seahouses inshore lifeboat.
The lifeboat crew launches up to 12 times a year to deal with such call-outs.
The RNLI’s funds are hit by an estimated £2,200 cost every time this happens. This adds up to between £66,000 and £132,000 over a five-year period.
Last night, Coun Dougie Watkin, whose Northumberland County Council ward covers Holy Island, acknowledged that the call-outs cost the emergency services a considerable amount but said people should not be deterred from calling them when in genuine need.
He said: “The one thing we do not want to do is under any circumstances is to stop people ringing the emergency services when they get into trouble.
“The cost of somebody ringing the emergency services compared to someone losing their life is negligible.
“However, you could weep. Nobody, I repeat nobody, drives off the east side of the island to try to get to Denmark, why do they feel the need to drive off the west side to get to England?
“The first vehicle got stuck on the causeway the first week it was open in 1954.
“I appreciate the problems the emergency services have had, but equally they are to be complimented because we have never lost anybody on the causeway.”
Seahouses lifeboat operations manager Ian Clayton said: “It costs the RNLI a lot of money to get up there.”
The RNLI obtain its money through public donations and fundraising events.
“It costs millions of pounds every year to fund the RNLI, to provide a service and it is a service that is free of charge and at no cost to the taxpayer.
“Every country with a coastline has an obligation to provide a rescue service.”
The call-out figure of £2,200 covers the maintenance of the boat and the wages of the mechanics who check it out after each incident.
The most recent call-out on the causeway involved a pair of Spanish holidaymakers, who did not speak English, who attempted to cross more than an hour after the safe times on Tuesday. They abandoned their vehicle and were rescued from a refuge box on the crossing by the lifeboat.