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 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