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

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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12 Comments on "Ferry companies to be challenged by user group"

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mat
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… Read more »
Darcy
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… Read more »
playingthenumbers

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.

Johnc16

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.

Darcy

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.

Cynic
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… Read more »
Johnc16

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.

islandres
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… Read more »
Matt

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

Crouchie
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… Read more »
Johnc16
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… Read more »
Johnc16

* 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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