The Government have announced that in order to protect vital ferry links between the Isle of Wight and the mainland Wightlink, Red Funnel and Hovertravel will once again receive subsidies.
An additional £6.5 million of government support has been pledged to ensure the companies continue to run through Coronavirus pandemic, the Chief Secretary announced today (Friday).
As reported by News OnTheWight yesterday, during Lockdown #1 the ferry companies had a share of just under £5m (see the breakdown).
The funding has been secured to ensure Islanders continue to have access to medical care on the mainland and that key supplies such as food and medicine are delivered.
Competition law still suspended
The funding from the Government comes alongside the temporary suspension of competition law that came into force at the end of March 2020.
It meant the operators have been able to work together to allow for essential food, freight and medical supplies to be transported between the Isle of Wight and the mainland, as well as provide a vital link for those who cannot work from home.
Barclay: Ferry services are essential to everyday life
The Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Steve Barclay, said,
“These ferry services are essential to everyday life on the Isle of Wight, and this further package of funding will help ensure residents can continue to access healthcare and essential goods and services.
“It’s vital no community or region is left behind as we fight the Coronavirus pandemic and build back better.”
Williams: A lifeline to the NHS and other communities
Sarah Williams, Associate Director of Research & Improvement at Solent NHS, said,
“The commitment of Hovertravel and other carriers to continue their service across the Solent has been a lifeline to the NHS and other communities through the pandemic – myself and colleagues (including the ambulance service) have been able to support the pandemic response across Hampshire &The IOW, the resource supply chain has been maintained, and patients have been able to access the critical services that they need.
“Without their support and service, there is no doubt that the quality of services both on the Island and the mainland would have been severely compromised, and patients would not have received treatment and care that they needed.
“Within the NHS and care system, we consider Hovertravel, Wightlink and Red Funnel part of our critical infrastructure and have been struck by the extra efforts they’ve gone to in supporting us in a Covid safe manner. The adaptability, positivity and cheer that they do this with is something that we won’t ever forget and for which we are extremely grateful. “
Courts: Essential support for local transport operators
Maritime Minister, Robert Courts, said,
“We took immediate action at the start of the pandemic to protect these vital routes, keeping the services people depend on running between the Isle of Wight and the mainland, and protecting jobs.
“This additional funding will continue this essential support for local transport operators, ensuring people can access medical care as well as other crucial services.”
Seely: Is result of several discussions I have had with Ministers
Isle of Wight Conservative MP, Bob Seely, said,
“This funding will ensure lifeline ferry services to and from the Island continue throughout the pandemic and is the result of several discussions I have had with Ministers and officials.
“Islanders can now be reassured that the ferries will continue to transport essential food, medical supplies and key workers to and from the Island.
“I would like to thank the IW Council for working with me to secure this funding and I thank Steve Barclay, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, for responding so quickly to our requests.”
Stewart: Funding is essential to safeguard vital links
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 once again recognised this through crucial financial support.
“This funding is essential to safeguard vital links between the Isle of Wight and mainland, ensuring a minimum level of service is available.
“This is important because we need those services in place to enable Islanders to access critical services in mainland hospitals and allow essential supplies, such as food and medicine, to be transported to the Island.
“However, let me be clear, these services are not open for people to come on holiday to the Island – they are there to make sure food and supplies can reach us and that medical staff and key workers can continue to travel.
“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: Recognises enormous efforts ferry operators have made
Transport Infrastructure Board chairman, Christopher Garnett, said,
“This funding 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 this whole pandemic – both in continuing to provide services and in working tirelessly and very closely for the benefit of Island residents and businesses.”
Oldham: Critical to the NHS
Maggie Oldham, chief executive at Isle of Wight NHS Trust, said,
“Maintaining these vital services is absolutely critical to the NHS.
“Securing this lifeline means NHS workers can reach the Island so that our acute, ambulance, community, and mental health and learning disabilities services can continue to support our community.
“These crucial services also mean our patients can travel to mainland hospitals to seek specialist treatment if they need it.”
Collins: Will be fully used to maintain our lifeline service
Fran Collins, CEO, Red Funnel said,
“We are grateful to learn of the financial support announced by the Government and are pleased that lifeline services to the Isle of Wight have again been recognised as critical routes, as they were in the first lockdown, along with the Isles of Scilly.
“We look forward to working with the Isle of Wight Council to understand the distribution of support and identify the service levels needed to keep our lifeline service in place.
“While we do not anticipate the support will be enough to offset the growing losses we have continued to absorb since the onset of the pandemic, the funding will be fully used to maintain our lifeline service as agreed with the Isle of Wight Council, and we will continue to do everything we can to keep the Island connected and supplied, as we have since March.
“We wish to thank the Department for Transport, the Isle of Wight Council and its Transport Infrastructure Board for their vital support in helping us continue sailing and serving our Island community.”
11am 15th Jan 2021 – Comments added from Dtweart, Garnett, Oldham and Red Funnel