Floating Bridge: Isle of Wight council must reject new floating bridge say stakeholders

The Floating Bridge Stakeholders Group say the bridge must meet the Statement of Requirements and it doesn’t. They’re calling for it to be rejected and a new one bought with a low interest loan.

cowes floating bridge

Angie Booth shares this latest on behalf of the Floating Bridge Stakeholders’ Group. Ed

This morning, we can see that the Council has not made all of the necessary improvements to the Cowes floating bridge to meet the Statement of Requirements, specifically those that ensure that this floating bridge is at least even as good as the last.

If this floating bridge is infrequent and unreliable, let alone unsafe or putting boats in peril, it won’t work.

Grounded three times
“Testing” during neap tides and with little river traffic is inappropriate and renders falsely favourable results i.e. confirmation bias – getting the results you want by fixing the circumstances to make things work the best.

Last week during spring tides the floating bridge grounded three times badly. The floating bridge will be less likely to ground these next weeks during neaps, but there are many other issues, despite a few small ones that have been resolved.

Unresolved design problems
There are many unresolved design problems that, all together, make the floating bridge slower, less reliable and more expensive to run as well.

This ranges in a very long list (not all listed here) – not only the noise and the chains – including: requiring all pedestrians to leave through one exit; grounding its boxy front easily on the slipway, necessitating costly regular dredging; driving slightly visually impaired with only one central wheelhouse that also needs extra staff to assist onboard for a variety of reasons, including that it takes too long for the driver to come down two flights of stairs to open the gates.

Passenger accommodation lacking
This floating bridge is supposed to have ‘improved passenger accommodation’ yet instead it has 50% less sheltered space for pedestrians and horrible lack of access for people with disabilities, all of whom can’t stand in the cold and rain for a half hour waiting for a slow floating bridge; people won’t use it, and this has real impact on the towns, Newport traffic, and the Council’s coffers as well.

Shops need customers.

Businesses will die
We were promised a floating bridge better than the last one, and this one still fails on all accounts. The Council can’t afford the risk of accepting this bridge, because if it is at times much slower and grounds more frequently than the old bridge, people won’t use it, and the Council will lose money, the traffic in Newport will be debilitating, and businesses will die.

This is no joke, and it has gone on long enough.

Council must reject this floating bridge
Unless radical and expensive fixes are done, such as building another sheltered pedestrian area, cutting out several metres in the length of the bridge, and building a wheelhouse on each end (amongst other things), this will not be a long-term success.

Sadly, these types of engineering feats are so expensive that they probably would also require EU tendering, would cost even more money, and wouldn’t even be guaranteed to work. It would cost almost the same as starting from scratch. The Council must reject this floating bridge and stop the sticking-plaster attempts; the time that is being wasted is costing the Council and the people dearly.

Former floating bridge was profitable
Many people do not know that the previous floating bridge made a hefty profit for the IW Council with the vehicle fares, because the Council didn’t ring-fence those profits for the floating bridge and instead spent them on other things.

It has been wrongly assumed that the Council pays for the floating bridge operation when in fact it has been a money-maker. If this floating bridge is slower and less reliable, it will cost the Council money (it will not make a profit) and not do its job. A bad floating bridge won’t make a profit.

If you were sold a banger of a new work van that you must have in order to work, and the warranty/trial period was about to run out, would you accept that van, knowing it probably would cost you money and break down on you? And what if you knew that you had to keep it for 20-30 years? You wouldn’t.

Sell FB 6 and buy a new one
The Council should do the best thing: take out a low-interest loan, sell off this floating bridge whilst it is still new and hasn’t depreciated in value, and use the money from the sale of the floating bridge and some of the future profits from fares to pay back the loan which wouldn’t take long at all.

Normally taking out a loan is a bad idea, especially if you can’t reasonably guarantee that you can repay it. But a well functioning floating bridge makes a very good profit, and a new floating bridge – and the sale of this one – can pay for its own loan.

The Council could also buy a stable, disabled-access Jenny boat for a fraction of the amount that they pay out to hire one, and run an excellent launch service in the meantime. That all makes good business sense, and we’re sure that the Council can see that is in their best financial interest as well as the interest of Cowes, Newport, and East Cowes.

It can’t be fixed
We all wish this floating bridge could be fixed, but it can’t. We don’t blame the Council necessarily for what is wrong with the bridge, but now that it’s clear that action to fix it properly has not been taken, the responsibility for rejecting this floating bridge sits squarely on the Council’s shoulders now.

We as Islanders also are concerned that the Council and its individual officers may be leaving themselves open to liability.

We’d also like to thank the floating bridge staff who are operating under such difficult conditions and trying to make things work in spite of problems.

Please do the right thing and the best thing for the people and the Council – buy a new floating bridge that is closer to the size and shape of Floating Bridge 5.

Article edit
Reference in intro text corrected from ‘interest-free loan’ to ‘low interest loan’.

Image: © With kind permission of Allan Marsh

Monday, 11th December, 2017 12:02pm


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

Filed under: Cowes, East Cowes, Island-wide, Isle of Wight Council, Isle of Wight News, Roads, Top story

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15 Comments on "Floating Bridge: Isle of Wight council must reject new floating bridge say stakeholders"

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No we don’t need yet another floating bridge. What we do need is a permanent Medina road crossing at Cowes. Other river crossings in the area have dispensed with floating bridges in favour of fixed crossings, the Itchen toll bridge replacing the Woolston ferry perhaps the most notable example. There are infrastructure funds available for such a project and it is clearly technically possible. What appears to… Read more »

Unfortunately, a fixed link bridge of any sort (swing, draw, etc.) cannot fit in that location. A bridge further upriver would work in future for traffic relief, but it won’t help the connectivity of the two towns, so there would need to be something for pedestrians at the floating bridge location.


The only type of bridge which would fit in this situation would be a transporter bridge, similar to the one at Newport in South Wales. However I feel that the cost would be prohibitive. The only sensible solution to this debacle is a replacement which must be fit for purpose, unlike the present one.


What is different about the Floating Bridge now that makes it possible to be in service?

Are all the yellow, permanent (Floating Bridge Service Suspended) road signs put up last week going to be taken down?


No two river crossings are the same. There are too many variables. Sadly 150 years of local design and development, which resulted in FB no5, have been discarded. An off the shelf, one size fits all design has been used instead. It may have been the lure of the 5 extra vehicle spaces, or just the cheaper option. As to the solution………?????


I am not clear what the writer means when she suggests that the Council rejects FB6? Surely that can only be done if it hasn’t been delivered to spec by the builder? As I understand it, it is the design which is wrong, not the execution of that design.


What a bunch of miserable ingrates! The new floating bridge is a great success – the vanquished Independents told us so.


I know it is petty but having taken down the permanent yellow sign at the top of the dual carriageway at St Mary’s roundabout couldn’t they have also picked up the portable red “Floating Bridge service suspended sign” opposite on the roundabout as well?

Whilst I accept that FB6 has been grossly mis-managed, I can’t see any possibility of buying another one. We should persevere with this one and make piece-wise improvements, one problem at a time, using local resources (there’s a highly-competent shipyard nextdoor, whose current workload shows signs of being finished early, and no shortage of local engineering/marine talent. In the meantime we would have at least something to… Read more »

Don’t believe that you can make this design work in the space envelope it has to operate in. It is too big, under-chained (due to increase in mass compared to FB5), and does not have enough covered passenger accommodation with sufficient disabled access. The damaged northern bumper on the West Cowes side shows that there is a problem. You didn’t need these with any previous bridges.

First it’s an interest free loan next its a low interest loan, make your mind up or is it that money tree again? Cut several metres in the length of the bridge and add additional accommodation on south side thus reducing the number of vehicles to around what the old one carried, helps how exactly? Before you go ranting would it not be an idea to see… Read more »

Just wait and see how it goes is not an option. Every day that this bridge fails to deliver on it’s requirements, it loses money which has to be paid for by ALL IoW Council tax payers. This service used to make money, but, due to the decrease in crossings it is now making a lose.


No one ever said a free loan.


The first line of the article does though

Sally Perry

‘eastcowes’ is correct, the release says ‘low interest’ but for some reason I wrote ‘interest-free’ in the intro text. Now corrected.