Readers will remember the online survey of Islanders and their use, or otherwise of cross-Solent ferry services we wrote about last week.
We hear from Andrew Turner’s office that the results so far from the online survey make for ‘interesting reading’ for the Ferry Companies.
As you’ll know, last month the OFT have made a provisional decision that they will not recommend further investigations into the ferry services.
However, in an unusual move, they decided to carry out further consultations to allow further evidence to be submitted in response to their report.
We hear that over 3,500 people have already completed the online survey and Mr Tutner is urging others to do the same before 9th August.
“Over 93% of people say they would use the ferries more often if they were cheaper. The report from the OFT says that new pricing policies introduced by the ferry companies (similar to those used by no-frills airlines) may explain why Islanders have experienced higher than average price rises. We all know that the low cost airlines have regular sales when they sell seats very cheaply – in fact Ryanair have a sale of a million flights to Europe for £1 each way (including taxes) at the moment. Although there are conditions attached and extra charges for various options it is perfectly possible to travel for the advertised price. Of course the airlines are operating in a very competitive market, and the OFT have found that does not apply to the cross-Solent ferry companies.
“Both the main ferry companies have given evidence to the OFT that on existing services their vehicle ferries are used at less than 50% of overall capacity at the moment and less than 25% of the capacity of the passenger ferries is used. If the ferry companies are using new pricing policies to benefit from higher prices at times of peak demand, then why shouldn’t Islanders reap some of the benefit by being able to purchase much cheaper crossings when the ferries are travelling almost empty?”
Mr Turner also commented that the number of people who had missed connections or appointments due to late or cancelled ferries did not appear to tally with evidence submitted to the OFT by Wightlink on reliability and punctuality. Wightlink gave evidence that over 3 years 90% of its services had left within 5 minutes of the scheduled time – yet two thirds of Wightlink users who responded to the survey had suffered the consequences of late ferries, including people who used the ferries to travel only infrequently. Red Funnel did not provide evidence to the OFT on reliability and punctuality.
Mr Turner said:
“One criticism of the ferry companies that has come up time and time again is that they don’t listen to their users. I would be willing to share the rgesults of this survey with them (although not individual information given in confidence); it should make interesting reading for them. I would also be willing to discuss with them how they can best meet the needs of Islanders and I am prepared to use the database I have built up to help them carry out more research if that would be helpful. This is not a fight with the ferry companies – the Island needs them to thrive and I understand that they have to make a profit. However, they also need to consider the needs of individual users.
“I do urge people affected by the ferry services to fill out the survey – even if they are entirely happy with the services, so that it is as accurate as possible. You will also be able to enter the £100 prize draw if you take part.”