Ferry companies to be challenged by user group

The majority of those attending the public meeting last night voted for a motion to push forward with a campaign against proposed cuts in ferry services.

Over 100 people gathered on a cold and dark January evening last night to share their views of service and job cuts at Wightlink Ferries.

Members of the audience ranged from transport staff, commuters, occasional ferry passengers as well as the Isle of Wight MP, Andrew Turner and Labour county councillor, Geoff Lumley – the only Isle of Wight councillor attending the meeting.

Solent Ferry Users Group
Julia Bridgeman from the Solent Ferry Users Group spoke about why she felt it was important to challenge the ferry companies. She shared the problems many commuters now face since the Yarmouth route has been reduced from 32 to 16 crossing per day.

She said that other commercial companies have recognised the need to serve all their customers and Wightlink “can’t continue to reduce, reduce, reduce”.

The Group were not there to ‘ferry bash’, she said, but instead to take advantages of all opportunities to enter into dialogue with the ferry companies and challenge the cuts in services and increases in fares.

Support from unions
John Rowse from the Unite union travelled up from South London to speak at the meeting, offering his wholehearted support for any campaign to secure the important links.

He likened (as did many others throughout the meeting) the strip of water between the Island and the mainland to a road, stressing the importance of the links to economy that ferry services provided.

Mick Tosh from the RMT union, a Wightlink member of staff until a few days ago, called for a return to public ownership of the ferry companies, as had been the case prior to privatisation in the 1980s.

Commuters trapped on/off the Island
A variety of views were expressed at the two hour meeting, including stories of commuters having to buy campervans to sleep in on the mainland, as they weren’t able to get on and off the Island late at night or early in the morning any more.

Mainland bus driver, Paul Robinson, who decided to move back to the Island last year, spoke of how he’d had to change from full-time to part-time in order to be able to get to work on time and called for the reinstatement of early morning and late night services.

Bob Blocksidge spoke of the £8m profit Wightlink enjoyed last year and how the ferries used to wait for connecting train passengers to arrive. “It is our road and should remain open”, he said.

Rise in fares a barrier to competing
A resident from Godshill who shows horses off the Island reported the fare for taking her 6m vehicle off the Island to attend shows had increased by £30 per crossing in just two years.

A musician who travels around the world to work, explained he was no longer able to rely on the ferries to get him to the airport for early morning flights and now needed to pay for overnight accommodation when travelling.

Macquarie overpaid for Wightlink
Isle of Wight MP Andrew Turner said the problem was that Macquarie had “paid too much” for Wightlink. He referred to the ferries as a ‘lifeline service’ and said he’d do all he could to challenge the situation. Apparently, Vince Cable, the Secretary of State for Business, had so far refused to meet with Mr Turner to discuss the issue.

He also said that he’d met with Hovertravel and Red Funnel bosses prior to the meeting, who both said (apart from one change at Hovertravel) that their ferry services would remain in tact with no cuts planned.

The appointment of Russell Kew, Chief Executive of Wightlink, as business representative on the Solent LEP was questioned, as were the arrangements for Wightlink’s repayment of loans – more on that later.

Boycotts and fixed link raised
Rob Donaldson from Yarmouth suggested the public speak with their feet and boycott all Wightlink services.

This suggestion was repeated by others during the course of the meeting, with general support from the audience.

A fixed link was also raised by several members of the public during the course of the meeting, but further discussion on this was discouraged in an attempt to keep the discussion focused on ferry services.

The majority of the room voted in favour of the campaign being taken forward.

Friday, 4th January, 2013 10:16am


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

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


  1. I attended this excellent meeting last night organised by the Trades Councils. The views given were very considered and thoughtful. I would think that the powers that be would do well to listen carefully to some of the considerations when they take their decisions. One has to be very disappointed by the lack of Tory Councillors and indeed the majority of them who failed to attend.Julia Bridgeman from the Solent Ferry Users Group spoke very well as did the Trade Unions.One shocking thing brought up was the man who wrote letters criticising the ferry companies and has been banned from using the ferries. The man is a hero for putting his head above the parapet and should be given a medal. The ferry companies have decided to put him under house arrest. Luckily Andrew Turner is going to look into the details.

  2. First of all, thanks to the organisers for arranging this meeting, thanks to OTW for covering it and more thanks to the many that were there who asked so many pertinent questions. I also attended the meeting and was appalled that no Tory nor even Independent councillors could be bothered to attend.
    Wightlink’s disdain for the Island clearly threatens the viability of the island economy and action is urgently needed to prevent them from doing more damage. As pointed out at the meeting, the Solent is our lifeline and road, and we are entitled to the same free passage of goods, people and services as any other citizens of the United Kingdom. We should not have to rely on the whims of a foreign business enterprise that has proved incapable of making sound financial decisions and now relies on using Wightlink profits to fund its other poor investments.
    We must fight for our rights to be treated like the rest of the UK otherwise, trade will stagnate, more jobs will be lost, inward investment will cease, the tourist trade will continue to decline and house prices will drop as overners pack their bags and return to the mainland.
    Finally, the ferry companies should be part of a national integrated transport system which seems so natural and seamless in many European countries. Whether that is achieved through nationalisation, partnerships, consortiums or other joint ventures, it doesn’t matter. Doing nothing is not an option. If you want to see the future of the island, just look at parts of Sandown and Ryde.

  3. playingthenumbers

    4.Jan.2013 12:02pm

    On one hand we have the government telling the world that the wishes of residents on a island (Falklands) 000’s of miles away should be respected, yet on the other hand the government minister from the same government cannot respect the local island’s representative enough, even to talk about a little local problem, easily resolved. Crazy world.

  4. If this is true that a Customer of the ferry companies has been banned for letters criticising them,then the ferry directors should be arrested for false imprisonment.

    • I agree. I was told by Wightlink that my son would be banned if he bought two day returns instead of a period return as it was a little cheaper. These people are bullies and cowards who hide behind their own inadequate rules.

      • I suspect as a public service carrier, Wightlink would be on dodgy legal grounds if it ever implemented the threat to ban passengers with legal tickets or who had written letters of complaint..

        Wightlink Terms and Conditions S 4.1 only allows it to ” reserve the right to refuse to allow any person or luggage (including vehicles) to travel who or which, in our reasonable opinion, is or are unfit to be carried on a ferry for any reason.”

        It would be difficult for Wightlink to argue in Court that a passenger legally holding two single tickets or someone who had written a letter of criticism was “unfit to be carried on a ferry”.

        The “for any reason” is a bluff and probably would not stand legal scrutiny.

  5. What a shame on them,that the Island ferry companies now actually imprison Island residents who criticise them.

    They have become more like our concentration camp guards and should be treated as such by the courts.

  6. islandres

    4.Jan.2013 12:48pm

    I used to be a regular foot user of Wightlink and used to pay the huge car parking charges on the pier on a monthly ticket. One day per week I used to travel back at a time the cats were not running so moved that day to the vehicle ferry. First time I did it, when I returned I had a large warning notice on my car saying that my permit didnt cover me for this car park! So both are owned by Wightlink so what is the problem? Oh thats it, it is all about the money not the regular users of the service.

    Thankfully I have moved jobs now and travel at a more reasonable hour of the day. Since then its been Hovertravel for me. I get a smile in the morning not a grunt and when things do not go quite to plan, the MD Neil does not deligate facing the customers, he comes out and explains the situation. I respect that..

  7. The IW LibDems and Lord Oakeshott.Do they have contact with Vince Cable?

  8. I was at the meeting last night.I attended because I wanted to listen and find out how ordinary people and families were coping and offer any support I could to fellow Islanders.
    Firstly I must comment that I was appalled that ONLY ONE elected councillor was in attendence + our M.P. Andrew Turner.What ever your Political divide thankyou Geoff and Andrew for being there to also provide support and assure people that you are ready to fight to ensure that we get the potential of best outcomes and that the shared concerns are valid.
    Can I also “Echo” my thanks to Julia Bridgeman and also the IOW Trade Unions for trying to rally support and awake the Island to the true Impact facing the population following Wightlink’s descision to dramatically reduce any worthwhile service to Ryde PH ,Fishbourne or Yarmouth late at night or early in the Morning.The Monopoly of our Major Car,Frieght and Passenger Links in the West and East Wight to the Mainland being dictated by Wightlink has for many years been a “Ticking time bomb” that has caused me concern.Increased Fares and a reduction in service potentially could spell total disaster for the Island, that we should remember has a population of Anglesy and the Isle of Man combined!!No Manufacturing or Tourism can be sustained if Wightlink continue to provide exspensive second rate services and dissmiss the provision in their name.That of providing a “LINK” to the Arterial body of Britain.Our Children and Grandchildren will have fewer opportunities or choices in life and as happened in so many Scottish Islands young Families will be forced to re-locate to find employment and a future lifestyle that offers hope. Those remaining will grow older and die like our beloved Island.!!Lets Wake up now and survive.

  9. Those who are of working age and need to travel to the mainland daily on a regular basis will not be prevented from doing so when they need to travel. This may mean the difference between living on the Island or having to move to the mainland to live. Meanwhile,the Island will become poorer in all ways as a result.We are being strangled by being cut off from the mainland for up to 7 hours a day in the case of Catamaran services.

  10. * Will be prevented I meant and I see we will be cut off for 8 hours a day,not 7, if needing to travel on the Catamaran.

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