The leader of the Isle of Wight Council and the chairman of the Isle of Wight Transport Infrastructure Board have both welcomed today’s (Friday) announcement of Department for Transport funding of £1.5 million per month for April to June to assist the cross-Solent ferry operators.
Stewart: Government has recognised enormous efforts of ferry companies
Council leader, Councillor Dave Stewart, said:
“The ferry operators serving the Island have made enormous efforts to ensure lifeline services are maintained during these very difficult times – and I am very pleased to see that the government has recognised this through crucial financial support.
“The operators have been working closely and in a co-ordinated fashion alongside our transport infrastructure board and with the crucial support and help of our MP.
“The co-operation and dialogue involving all parties and with the government has played a key part in achieving this support and national acknowledgment. I would particularly like to thank the ferry operators, MP Bob Seely and board chairman Christopher Garnett for all their work on behalf of Islanders.
“I would also like to remind people of the message that all travel should only be for essential journeys unless for work if you can’t stay at home.”
Garnett: Funding for Red Funnel, Wightlink and Hovertravel
Transport infrastructure board chairman, Christopher Garnett, said:
“This funding will be provided to the council to allocate to Red Funnel, Wightlink and Hovertravel – and is based around the latest revised timetable of services announced recently.
“It will serve to further support and underpin the maintenance of effective and robust services to the Island at this critical and challenging time.
“It also recognises the enormous efforts the ferry operators, their management teams and staffs have made during these past few weeks – both in continuing to provide services and in working tirelessly and very closely for the benefit of Island residents and businesses.”
Seely: Maintaining a lifeline service
Isle of Wight Conservative MP, Bob Seely, said,
“This deal will ensure supplies of essential food and medicine will continue, that urgent medical treatment can be accessed by those who need it and key workers can continue to come to St Mary’s and other sites.
“I am grateful to Ferries Minister, Kelly Tolhurst, for engaging in numerous conversations with me on cross-Solent travel over the past few weeks, as well Treasury ministers for signing off this support package.
“I would like to reassure Islanders that this does not mean that visitors will now be coming to the Island. It means that cross-Solent ferry operators can maintain a lifeline service which also meets the requests of the IOW NHS Trust.”
Full details of the £10.5m fund to be shared between the Isle of Wight and Isles of Scilly can be found on the Government Website.
Critchley: Are dividends and bonuses on hold?
Island Labour Chair, Julian Critchley, said:
“Of course, we agree that the transport links to the Island are an essential public service. The question is why the government only seems able to recognise this fact during a crisis. If cross-Solent transport is recognised as a public service, then there are questions we need to consider.
“Firstly, will the transport companies in receipt of this public money confirm that they won’t be paying any dividends or executive bonuses this year, as that would obviously be a transfer of money direct from the public to private individuals?
“Secondly, if it’s so important that millions of pounds of public money must be used to keep it going during difficult times, then why would we return to a situation where the companies pocket millions of pounds of profit during good times? We currently have a situation where profit is privately retained, while losses are met by the public purse. That doesn’t resemble any kind of free market, and of course the reason for that is that cross-Solent transport is not, and never has been, a free market service. It’s a public service, and it should be provided as such in good times as well as bad.
“There are many things which shouldn’t continue as before, after this national crisis. The situation with cross-Solent transport is a very important issue which needs to change, permanently.”
2pm 24th Apr 2020 – Comment from Critchley added