Floating Bridge: ‘This isn’t ‘teething trouble’, it’s an unmitigated disaster’

A list of what’s wrong with the Floating Bridge, described as ‘Multiple catastrophic bridge problems identified that cannot be rectified, or be fixed without penalty’ was presented to East Cowes town council last night. OnTheWight has the details.

floating bridge

Angela Booth, owner of Valu-4-U, shares this latest with OnTheWight about the Cowes floating bridge. Ed

At last night’s East Cowes Town Council Meeting, East Cowes residents and businesses issued a paper to the Town Council through Public Questions, outlining numerous permanent problems beyond the prows and electrical system that cannot be fixed or to resolve them would mean that the bridge will slow down to a crawl.

This isn’t ‘teething trouble’; this is an unmitigated disaster. We were promised an Efficient, Larger (including pedestrians), Reliable, Faster and Customer-friendly (including pedestrians), and those criteria have failed to be met, and instead of a bespoke bridge, we got a wonky banger that is slower, more dangerous and completely unfit for purpose.

We refuse a floating bridge that does not meet these needs and those promises.

Council officers and councillors were warned
Not only we and the East Cowes Town Council were not consulted properly, but also quite a few members of the public went out of their way to warn Council officers and Councillors of these potential problems – many of which were common sense that did not require advanced engineering skills – and now those problems that were ignored by the IW Council, including Health & Safety problems, have come home to roost.

We are angry, and this bridge is unacceptable. As usual, the Council will try to attach plasters and then ‘normalise’ this to preserve their damaged reputation, but we will not allow it.

Many other problems
Beyond the obvious issues experienced so far with the prows and the electrical system, there are many problems that appear that they cannot be resolved due to the design of the bridge or without severely slowing down the bridge, including:

  • Dangerous queuing on the East Cowes north pavement (warned to the Council in 2010, 2012, 2014 and onward), including too many people in too little space, “Death Corner” traffic, difficulty crossing to Ferry Road for abled and disabled pedestrians, and no room for lorries to turn down Castle Street coming out of GKN or generally down Ferry Road
  • Removal of the slipways’ flood barriers which will cause more regular flooding in Cowes and East Cowes and a rise in flood insurance for local businesses and residents
  • One inside pedestrians’ hold – reduced sheltered pedestrian capacity with limited disabled access
  • Crossings or river traffic may have to stop more and/or for longer at low tides due to bridge length
  • Potentially more changes to infrastructure, particularly the East Cowes slipway and pavements on the north side, causing other delays and costs
  • Cold, exposed queuing on the north side of East Cowes pavements
  • Slowed crossings with separate (non-simultaneous) offloading of pedestrians and of vehicles, especially as older and disabled people feel rushed to get on to and off of the floating bridge
  • The “double decker bus” effect: slow pedestrian exiting due to one exit and two levels of pedestrians trying to exit through one door , and since there is only one pedestrian exit now.
  • Any slowing of the bridge will cause attrition of pedestrians and vehicles and become a barrier to island road traffic and pedestrians (and direct impact on traffic in Newport)

Even if they slow down the crossings to a crawl, this will not fix problems such as, for example, the fact that the bridge has only one sheltered pedestrian hold. The only way to mitigate problems with the pedestrian walkways is to offload pedestrians separate from cars, and let them walk towards the south side of the slipway and up, but this will slow down the bridge, and we were promised simultaneous offloading (as one can see in the design of the prow now), which they could have done if they had had two holds and weren’t so obsessed with trying to charge pedestrians.

Negative impacts for charging pedestrians
The Solent Local Enterprise Partnership awarded the Isle of Wight a grant to purchase the floating bridge. However, according to statements made by IW Councillors at the time as well as discussions around the need for a floating bridge consultation, allegedly the IW Council introduced the charges to demonstrate to the Solent LEP that they raise much more money and would ring-fence all floating bridge profits.

It seems that the IW Council may not have explained the potential negative impacts for charging pedestrians at the time, or possibly since, the losses to their pensioner bus passes and other problems with charging.

Fares not being ring-fenced?
Allegedly, according to the last few IW Council budgets, even the vehicle fares have not been ringfenced to secure the future of a future floating bridge, as we were led to believe was being ‘required” by the LEP.

Is the Solent LEP aware of this? We will be writing letters to the LEP – as will the East Cowes Town Council, agreed by motion last night – to find out how satisfied they are with how their money has been spent.

Pensioners using buses costing the council
Additionally and importantly, as the East Cowes public has pointed out for years now, charging pedestrians is losing the Council profit because of the pensioner bus pass use on the bus, where the Council has to pay Southern Vectis a lot of money for pensioners going around by bus, and other expenditures not accounted for in the IW Council budget.

The charges haemorrhage money from the IW Council for multiple reasons from ticket collectors, to pensioner bus passes to attrition. Why do something that is costing your business money? Even if it were to gain a few pounds, the damage that it is doing to the local economy – which is ALSO the responsibility of the IW Council – is massive.

We are demanding:

  1. full disclosure of the feasibility study/studies, Health and Safety risk assessments of the bridge, slipways, and affected roads and pavements, all contracts and all legal documents, specifications (and rationale for prioritisation), tender assessment, contract management, acceptance criteria, final takeover conditions and penalty clauses, including how much of the contract payment has been paid out based on performance testing and how much retention payment is held by the Isle of Wight Council
  2. Immediate IW Council meetings with members of the public, East Cowes Town Council (as passed by motion at last night’s ECTC meeting)
  3. the immediate cessation of pedestrian charges on the floating bridge
  4. full disclosure of conversations with the Solent LEP regarding procurement of the floating bridge
  5. All information about who was responsible – for the design and all of the related ‘sign-offs’
  6. other requirements as outlined in the document submitted to the East Cowes Town Council

Compensation for loss of turnover
The impact on our businesses is no joke. This has been going on for the better part of six months now, and there is no resolution that will make the bridge as fast as the old one. Some members of the East Cowes Business Association are demanding compensation from the IW Council for massive losses of turnover.

Originally the IW Councillors promised a bridge by March 2016 when talks happened with the Solent LEP.

Incredibly late, substandard atrocity
Then instead of making the floating bridge the same size as it always had been, someone decided to make the bridge too big and that required the bridge being out of service much longer than if it had been a proper replacement.

Now we have a incredibly late, substandard atrocity sitting out there when we would have been better off with a bridge the same size but with internal improvements to the engine etc. It appears that the East Cowes Town Council wishes to get to the bottom of this and who is responsible, and the public also wants to know exactly who made these decisions.

‘Heads should roll’
As the saying goes, ‘heads should roll’ with this inexcusable mistake, and no apathy here – we won’t stop demanding it until this problem is solved.

Attached below: East Cowes’ public’s document to the East Cowes Town Council, 18 May 2017, that includes more demands for information and action of the IW Council and others.

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Friday, 19th May, 2017 12:25pm


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Filed under: Cowes, East Cowes, Island-wide, 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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28 Comments on "Floating Bridge: ‘This isn’t ‘teething trouble’, it’s an unmitigated disaster’"

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What rubbish. According to Phil Jordan “The provision of the floating bridge was a success for the Independents”.

Phil, of course, is the former member previously responsible for overseeing large contracts so he couldn’t possibly wrong could he?

Phil Jordan


you are so often wrong with your understanding and comments I hesitate to comment…. but….to be clear. personally, I had very little to do with the floating bridge whatsoever.

It was nothing to do with “large contracts” and I was not responsible for “overseeing large contracts” in any event…. but your continued trolling is noted.


Getting the funding was a success of the island independents unfortunately they are not responsible for actually building it and doing the tests


I am not expecting them to have shot the rivets but they should have made sure the contract signed delivered a vessel that was appropriate for its surroundings. They have failed to do so. Its a balls up however way you slice it.

Phil Jordan


no it is not.

It surprises me to note that people are still applying the blame to the actual floating bridge structure, as this is as the name suggests a floating craft that will rise and fall with the height of the water level in the Medina. This can be likened to car carrying ships loading and unloading at the Southampton Docks, the only difference being the dockside has straight sides… Read more »

Shoulda built an immersed tube tunnel…

But the Bacon-led Council had a complete aversion to tunnels of any sort.


At some point losses will have to cut on this and I agree, a 21st century immersed tube tunnel does make sense.

I for one cannot see any substantial change happening with the loading and unloading the new Floating Bridge until someone has the courage to order the removal of the concrete slipways. Then adopt the same loading and unloading principal as the Car Ferries, keeping the abutting area of riverbed on either side clear of silt thus allowing the ‘Chain Ferry’ to get nearer the actual road. This… Read more »
The slipways have always been in use ever since the first floating bridge was installed in 1859. To dispense with them would mean that there would have to be hydraulically operated link spans installed to compensate for the rise and fall of the tide which can approach a difference of 15 feet. I suggest it would be a lot more economical to give the old one, (which… Read more »
It is unfair at this stage to refer to the ferry system (infrastructure and craft) as substandard. The standard is determined by specification. If all specifications have been met then, no matter what problem may arise, even if the system is non viable, it is to specified standard and so fault is with the team that created the specification. It’s their work that would be substandard. As… Read more »

Hear, hear, Angie! A lot of these problems can’t be fixed, like having only having one ‘inside’ pedestrian hold on the floating bridge. And they NEVER should have started using the bridge with the very dangerous queuing on the East Cowes side!


And once again total silence from those responsible. That’s the Indies for you – accountability when it suits them.

Phil Jordan
I’m still here tyke….. and if we are going to start talking ‘accountability’ then lets do so. Starting with Pugh… and eight years of total shutdown and the ‘new’ administration beginning to carve out total shutdown of democratic process. The floating bridge was and is a success. Had we not obtained funding through the hard work and persuasive manner of the then leader, Cllr Stephens, this service… Read more »

For all intents and purposes this service does no longer exist.


Floaty McBrokeface, clearly. Just at as well it hasn’t been named after the Blyskawica yet – that would have looked bad…

Phil – what has everyone’s favourite Boogeyman Pugh got to do with the price of fish? And as a matter of fact, the Conservative administration had committed capital expenditure for a new floating bridge before they were, rightly I might add, turfed out. Google it. As for transparency and accountability, I go back to my original point. Is it right that the indies facilitated – and finance… Read more »
Phil Jordan
tyke: final comment on this. The context of mentioning Pugh is that the accountability, openness and transparency were non existent in that administration and the current one is heading in the same direction. I will repeat again that in May 2013 when the Independents took over from the failed Pugh administration there were NO plans for the floating bridge and there was no money set aside. In… Read more »

I’ll do that, Phil. It’ll be a nice change to get a straight answer.

Phil Jordan


do post it when you get the answer … thanks

Seems the bickering politicos have taken over here. Now for a helpful suggestion. Turn the chain ferry round so that the passenger hold is to the south. East Cowes passengers and vehicles can embark simultaneously and can disembark simultaneously on the Cowes bank. Load the Cowes foot passengers who have been waiting on the North side of the road and then load the vehicles. Disembarking on the… Read more »

Forgot to mention, the above is a solution for one problem. Somebody else can sort ALL the rest.


This was put forward as a solution at the meeting on Thursday evening – but not sure if it was taken very seriously.


wightwitch and davee – see below! :)


How do they have the brass balls to keep charging, and at the increased rate too, for this lousy excuse of a service.

Unfortunately, turning the bridge around is not necessarily a fix (but may be a possibility). It will expose the cyclists and the large disability scooter users directly to the elements of the prevailing southwesterly winds. I *think* that one of the reasons that the driver’s seat is to the north is because of visibility issues with the harbour which is more of a danger in terms of… Read more »
Turning the chain ferry around will protect the cyclists and mobility scooter users from the cold North wind. The reason for the helmsmans position being on the North side was indeed for a better view of the harbour. Since the mid 1980s’ VHF radios have been introduced and all commercial vessels radio the chain ferry giving their positions and intentions. Although the chain ferry has right of… Read more »
davee, almost everyone is looking for a solution. I agree that turning it around the other way *MAY* be a solution although I’ve seen boats on both sides get stuck. The answer is probably non-mandatory queuing initially and then going down the left both sides of the river (as many of the public initially recommended). The problem with the bridge in terms of the ramp may be… Read more »