Government minister recognises ferry services as strategic routes

A cross-party delegation attended the meeting in Westminster yesterday to discuss cuts to ferry services.

Andrew Turner

This in from Andrew Turner’s office, in their own words. Ed


Andrew Turner the Island’s MP declared he was pleased with the outcome of a meeting yesterday with the Minister for Transport Stephen Hammond MP, after a cross-party delegation travelled to London to discuss ferry issues with him.

Mr Turner arranged the meeting following a public meeting in January at which many people described how the recent cuts to Wightlink’s evening, overnight and early morning services would affect their lives. As well as councillors from each of the political parties on the Isle of Wight Council and an independent councillor, the delegation included representatives from the Island’s Trade Union Council and the recently formed Solent Ferry Users Group.

Turner: “Part of my ongoing discussions with colleagues in Government”
Mr Turner said, “This meeting was a part of my ongoing discussions with colleagues in Government about the issues raised by the Island’s reliance on cross-Solent ferry services. It follows on from a meeting I held recently with the Secretary of State for Business, Vince Cable MP.

“I thought it important that Ministers directly understand that these problems affect the community as a whole and that we can put differences aside to work together because this is so important to the Island’s future. Having so many people of widely differing political views and with different interests sitting together in front of you is a powerful message in itself to any Minister!

“Not surprisingly, there were a great many issues raised. As I have repeatedly said – there are no easy answers, Wightlink is a privately owned company and nobody disputes that the current trading conditions are challenging. However the Minister undertook to speak directly to Wightlink, not least because the group made clear their anger at their complete lack of meaningful consultation with their customers.

“He also encouraged the Island’s Council to consider the ferry services as strategic routes and look at any funding opportunities from central Government that might help Islanders and he will be contacting me about that. I will pass that information on to the political parties and the independent group on the Council. I hope they will then work together to see how the Island and Islanders can benefit from any possible support that the Government can give.

“The Minister also made clear that he did not believe that full-scale regulation would solve these problems – but that he would consider whether there is a case for some sort of light-touch regime. I must say that I agree with him. Local bus services are heavily regulated but it does not stop routes and services being axed when there is no money to subsidise them.

“We all realise that the ferry services are vital to the future of the Island’s economy. I am happy to work with the ferry companies and those who rely on the services they provide to make that as successful as possible.”

Image: © IslandMP

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Wednesday, 6th March, 2013 10:11am

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10 Comments

  1. Mason Watch's comment is rated -4 Vote +1 Vote -1

    6.Mar.2013 1:58pm

    Great but has anyone heard what those thieving
    b*****d’s at Wightlink and Hovertravel think?

    Reply
  2. Dalek's comment not rated yet. Add your vote Vote +1 Vote -1

    6.Mar.2013 2:27pm

    Is it me or does all that seem to be, well, just a lot of erm, guff? Not saying anything other than “we will keep spouting about it, maybe, possibly sometime in the future, if we remember.”

    Reply
  3. Darcy's comment is rated +5 Vote +1 Vote -1

    6.Mar.2013 5:52pm

    Interested to see that the Minister might be considering a case for a ‘light-touch’ regulatory regime for the ferry services. Some might remember Labour tried that with the banks and look where that got us all!
    Stricter control is the only thing that will work otherwise human greed will look for and exploit opportunities and loopholes.
    Incidentally Mason Watch – personally, I don’t think Hovertraval is in quite the same arrogance league as Wightlink!

    Reply
    • tryme's comment is rated +4 Vote +1 Vote -1

      6.Mar.2013 8:43pm

      Quite true Darcy. I don’t think I’ve heard any complaint about Hovertravel, & in fact they consulted with customers recently & changed some plans as a result, I vaguely recall. Good for them, credit where credit’s due!

      Reply
  4. Mike Powell's comment is rated +4 Vote +1 Vote -1

    6.Mar.2013 7:51pm

    Whilst these are only tentative steps at this point, they do strike me as being in the right direction. An opportunity was missed many years ago when the old Sealink services were effectively privatised with no regulatory framework at all. So we have a situation where rail and bus services are subject to varying levels of public regulation but the ferries, the most critical component of the Island’s transport, account to their shareholders first and users a distant second.

    There is a distinct feeling that if allowed to continue as they are, ferry services could strangle the Island economy, through making the cost of businesses operating on the Island unrealistic, the cost of goods in our shops unaffordable, and the cost for holidaymakers’ visits unattractive. Somebody needs to get a handle on this somehow and this could be the first practical if small steps to making a difference. Well done all those involved and power to your elbows!

    Reply
  5. tryme's comment is rated +4 Vote +1 Vote -1

    6.Mar.2013 7:51pm

    Just me, then, that thinks this sounds like a bit of progress where there was none before?!

    Getting that spectrum of people in the same room as the Minister for Transport – that has to be a necessary step in the right direction.

    Much as I don’t like what Wightlink have done, I don’t
    think we should lower ourselves & overshadow our arguments by calling them names, Mason Watch.

    Reply
  6. Mason Watch's comment not rated yet. Add your vote Vote +1 Vote -1

    6.Mar.2013 9:25pm

    As a long term Hover travel customer it is my experience that the service is not as good as say 5 years ago. The timetable exists only on paper and frequent late departure is common. There’s other issues in terms of cost but if you aren’t a daily commuter then you simply won’t understand. How can Wightlink justify £110 period return for a small hatchback also astounds me. So with respect to other commentators on here I stand by my earlier post.

    Reply
  7. ohmy's comment is rated +2 Vote +1 Vote -1

    6.Mar.2013 9:59pm

    Mason Watch you just caught on the side of a very important part of traveling with a car,what is the difference between a day return and a few days away in terms of fares,a car only takes up the same space on the ferry deck but more than a day away is a lot dearer than a day return,why. You try asking Whitelink,i have at least five times and got five different gobbledegook reply’s.

    Reply
    • no.5's comment is rated +1 Vote +1 Vote -1

      6.Mar.2013 10:41pm

      I’ve seen the report by other members of the party…and Turners Spin is defianetly an attempt to make the best of another utter failure.

      Of Course Pugh didn’t go

      Reply
      • Mat's comment is rated +4 Vote +1 Vote -1

        7.Mar.2013 12:00pm

        These negotiations that have taken place with the government in Westminster are revealing.In the first place the MP is pleased with them, he is buoyed and content with the outcome with his colleagues in Westminster.Secondly the Minister, Hammond has shown clearly the attitude of Government to the Provinces. The Isle of Wight will not be treated like London or the big cities. The investment in cross rail or big city incentives or even business rate returns are what matters for them not us.The stance shows a clear line of demarcation between two sides, on the one side the Government with its “no money for you in this case” and the other side – the island, with what should be the approach, “Why not?” ” we demand justice,like any region outside of London or the big cities”.
        Turner’s type of compromising approach puts in question the leadership on the island, after all Pugh never even went and is content to have his closed door “secret” meeting in Daish Way, Newport, next week, without even the Trade Unions taking part.
        Another question arises from the Westminster report, we know that the cross Solent routes are strategic so why raise it? The issue is mixed with buses being able to be axed. So by implication the Wightlink route could be axed.
        Is there something we are not being told? To recognise it,something we told them, then not protect it from bankruptcy,to indicate scratching round for other kinds of funding,which might go straight into Maquarie’s back pocket, but generally to abdicate responsibility for what should be a public facility. It smells to me that there is something more serious in the air with this Australian bank.Will we have a viable ferry service for much longer?

        Reply

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