Ferry companies respond to Andrew Turner’s Westminster appearance

OnTheWight asked the ferry companies what their reaction was to Andrew Turner’s performance in the House of Commons the other day. Here are the responses from two of them.

Andrew Turner on bench - Ferry debate - Westminster - 13 October 2014

Following Andrew Turner’s appearance in Westminster, where he criticised Isle of Wight ferry companies, we approached them to ask their reaction.

The responses from Wightlink and Red Funnel are below, in full. Hovertravel have so far failed to respond.

Wightlink welcomes Transport Minister John Hayes’ suggestion of roundtable talks about Isle of Wight infrastructure and looks forward to playing a full role in the discussions of the Task Force.

We thank Andrew Turner for raising the issue of Marine Conservation Zones on the north coast of the Isle of Wight which may restrict future plans by the company to introduce new ships or increase the frequency of sailings.

We have always sought to offer our customers fair prices. Regular travellers can buy season tickets and Islanders can also buy Multilink Passes that lock in prices.

There are places for Multilink Pass holders on board all crossings, even at the busiest times during festivals. That means customers who book early and can be flexible with their chosen sailings will secure the best fares.

In a recent survey, Wightlink asked Multilink Pass holders what they thought of the discount scheme. Some of them suggested amendments which are being investigated but the vast majority of respondents said they were satisfied. In response to this feedback, Wightlink is looking at how it can further improve Multilink Passes for customers in future.

Like other Isle of Wight ferry operators, Wightlink receives no public subsidy. However, we run more than 48,000 sailings a year on our three routes and a third of them are loss-making, 40 per cent in the winter.

Wightlink’s ownership structure does not influence the price of fares. Our owners have invested £70million over the last six years on five new boats and significant shoreside improvements, without taking a penny from Wightlink as profit.

Red Funnel

Red Funnel welcomes Ministerial Review

Red Funnel acknowledges the observations made by MP Andrew Turner during the parliamentary debate in the House of Commons on Isle of Wight ferry services and welcomes the willingness of Transport Minister John Hayes to host a review of the key issues facing cross-Solent operators.

As noted in Andrew Turner’s address, Red Funnel is acutely aware of the debate surrounding cross-Solent services but refutes the suggestion that passengers are paying higher fares as a result of the Company’s debt structure or the timing of its sale in 2007. It is worth noting that: –

  • The Company is committed to offering year round value for money fares for Island residents, noting that Islanders generally travel more frequently. Red Funnel already provides discounts for businesses, frequent travellers, NHS patients and job seekers.
  • Red Funnel’s timetables acknowledge the importance of lifeline services. Red Funnel is the only operator to run 365 days a year and operates more foot passenger sailings than its biggest competitor (Portsmouth-Ryde). The Company is open to discussing ‘subsidies’ as a possible solution to some of the issues raised by Andrew Turner.
  • Red Funnel endeavours to be as transparent as possible by publishing service reliability, punctuality, utilisation and customer satisfaction data on its website together with market share and pricing data.
  • New SMART through-ticketing solutions are being developed to improve transport integration and the Company is investing in real-time travel information, working closely with connecting bus and train operators, Southampton City Council, Isle of Wight Council and Visit Isle of Wight to improve communications and journey planning for foot passengers.
  • Red Funnel is the top rated cross-Solent operator on Trip Advisor, receiving a Certificate of Excellence in 2014. Although customer satisfaction levels are at a record high with 91% of customers rating Red Funnel as excellent or good, the Company is investing in a new customer service training programme to raise standards even further.
  • Red Funnel’s User Group and ‘meet the manager’ sessions are providing valuable insights which feed the Company’s continuous improvement process.
  • Red Funnel continues to invest heavily in its vessels and infrastructure. Red Falcon has undergone a £2.2m refit and Red Osprey will be refitted to the same standard in Q1 next year. In addition, the interior of Red Jet 4 is currently being replaced with new air conditioning/de-humidifier system and the trial of a new free Wi-Fi solution. The large infrastructure projects to move terminals in Southampton and at East Cowes are also progressing well.

Kevin George, CEO of Red Funnel commented

“I am grateful to Andrew Turner for the opportunity to appraise him prior to the debate of the actions and investments Red Funnel is taking to develop its services and give even better value for money, especially for Island residents. Our record customer satisfaction ratings are helping to grow market share, such that over the summer our Southampton–East Cowes route became the most popular way for vehicle customers to cross the Solent.”

Stephen Nelson, Chairman of Red Funnel said,

“Infracapital Partners LLC, the owners of Red Funnel would welcome the opportunity to support the IoW Transport Infrastructure Task Force and to discuss the issues surrounding the cross-Solent ferry service with the various stakeholders.”

Red Funnel welcomes the opportunity to work with the Task Force to develop an integrated transport policy for the Island and as a consequence Red Funnel is looking forward to meeting with the Transport Minister and other interested parties, to discuss the points raised in the House of Commons debate as well as the operational and commercial challenges of providing cross-Solent services.

Image: Screen grab from parliamentlive.tv coverage of 13 October 2014 debate

Wednesday, 15th October, 2014 5:44pm


ShortURL: http://wig.ht/2cpF

Filed under: Ferry, Hover, Island-wide, Isle of Wight News, Politics, Top story

Any views or opinions presented in the comments below are solely those of the author and do not represent those of OnTheWight.

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15 Comments on "Ferry companies respond to Andrew Turner’s Westminster appearance"

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The Sciolist

‘Our owners invested £70 million without taking a penny in profit’

How do they write this nonsense and keep a straight face? They really do think we’re stupid but hopefully it will be harder to pull the wool over the governments eyes.

Call it what you like, but 40p in every pound they get from customers goes to their owners.


This initiative is good for the public and businesses alike.

Mr Magoo

Task force is an inspired description of the body proposed to examine the Island’s transport needs. It conjures up the prospect of dynamism and action and the words make a great headline. But let’s hope task force is not a euphemism for (yet another) talking shop.


The Ferry Companies are still diverting the issue of cheaper fares across the board with multilink tickets/improvements etc.Then Wightlink say a third of their sailings a year are loss making,40 per cent in winter.So they could try bringing the fares down.Small Profit Quick Return.

barrow boy
You don’t get it do you Derek! Those sailings are loss making because very few people want to travel at those times. They are already much cheaper than other sailings. Some people book these cheaper times then complain whenWightlink charge them a fee when they try and use the ticket on a different sailing! Not sure how reducing prices on the profit making sailings will make them… Read more »

barrow boy, read the word try.Wightlink’s way is not working if loss-making is going on.

barrow boy

Wightlink’s way is working! They made approx £10M on £50M turnover last year.

Like I said before how would reducing prices on the profit-making sailings make them more money?


So here is a company talking about loss-making on certain sailings but still making £10M profit at the expense of the individual customer who has to pay a higher fare on certain sailings.It would be like Cowes Floating Bridge charging higher fares at busy times.There is a case for a Ferry Service under Public Ownership.


Red Funnel says “The Company is open to discussing ‘subsidies’ as a possible solution to some of the issues raised by Andrew Turner.”

How will potential ‘subsidies’ be calculated and then financed when there is no legal public service obligation to provide a minimum service level unlike bus and train operations which are respectively financed by County Councils and the Department for Transport to provide ‘socially necessary’ services.


I suppose that would be the subject of the discussion. E.g. if we pay you £x you will run extra Red Jet sailings in the evening or every half hour during the day. Or if we pay you £y you will run hourly sailing in the evening ….

There are two aspects to the economic argument: 1) The law of value 2) The law of proportional balance of the economy. The first is predominantly about profit, the second is pro-social. Do you run a service for profit? – Not always. A discussion about infrastructure and integrated transport has hybridised economy as its compromise because it “recognises” the public element.This is the idea of the “Task… Read more »
Mr Magoo
Parrot fashion You asked the ferry companies what their reaction was to Andrew Turner’s ‘performance’  in the cross-Solent ‘debate’ in the House of Commons. One word sums it up– lacklustre. For someone as experienced as he should be, his speech lacked intonation, pauses and was delivered parrot-fashion. Now I understand that since his stroke he has been permitted to read his speeches while other MPs must rely… Read more »

Mr Magoo — Thoroughly obnoxious for anyone to attack another human being over their medical condition.


Has anyone thought to ask Red Funnel just how much they pay the Cowes Harbour Commission every year. Maybe fares could be reduced if the HC reduced some of their fees and charges.


(Per the Beeb)
“The three airports (Aberdeen, Glasgow and Southampton) will now be owned by a consortium formed by two companies – Spanish firm Ferrovial and Australia-based Macquarie.”. Ferrovial/Macquarie paid £1 billing for the airports.

Macquarie- eh? Just when you thought it was safe to fly.