We always welcome a Letter to the Editor to share with our readers – unsurprisingly they don’t always reflect the views of this publication. If you have something you’d like to share, get in touch and of course, your considered comments are welcome below. This by Colin McCourt of East Cowes about the Cowes floating bridge. Ed
Floating bridge 5, during its operating life, made a good profit for the Isle of Wight Council. This was clear profit, after all staff, fuel, maintenance and other operating costs had been taken into account.
That money was consistently used to fund holes in the council budget instead of ring-fencing it to fund any replacement bridge that would be needed once FB5 reached its end of life.
FB6 not fit for purpose
Floating bridge 6 has been shown to be unreliable, infrequent and not fit for purpose, which, in my opinion (and that of others) will now return a loss. Regardless of the thinking of the council, a substandard bridge doesn’t work. We can’t just “make do” because making a loss means that they will continue to eat into funding needed elsewhere in the council budget.
In a time where the council is already looking at reducing funding for youth, this should be unacceptable.
The increased traffic through the Fairlee Road, the link, and the roads to Cowes, due to people not accepting the delays and unreliability.
People will only use the floating bridge if they see that it saves them time/money in relation to travelling round through Newport.
Currently this is not the case. This situation will only get worse as more houses are built on both sides of the Medina.
Once the council finally realises that the FB is costing it money they have a number of options. They are:
- Continue to fund the losses for the 20 year life of FB6. Not acceptable to taxpayers or the council budget holders, as someone will have to pay somewhere.
- Increase fares (again). I believe that this would just force more people into travelling round, as more people would realise that it is cheaper to do so. This would then begin a downward spiral as having yet fewer users would create increased loses above that predicted currently.
- Take out a low interest loan and fund a proper bridge that is fit for purpose. Taking FB5 design and updating it appears to be the simple solution. Although there is an upfront cost, over the life of the floating bridge, the loan could be paid back and a profit made by the end. However, the council leader appears to be only interested in the short term, not what is best for the Island in the long term. Having said they are willing to borrow up to £100m for speculative investments, they might be better looking closer to home rather than further afield.
There is no doubt that this unsuitable floating bridge is killing businesses on both sides of the Medina and the increased redirected traffic is making Newport a “no-go area” at times.
East Cowes, Cowes and Newport Town Councils are all unhappy with the current situation, which will not change whilst the current floating bridge remains. Large businesses are unhappy with what has been happening and I am sure, will be considering legal action as, no doubt, promises will have been made for them to invest in our Island.
Leader of IWC not interested
Leader of the Isle of Wight council, Cllr Dave Stewart, has already said he is not interested in the short term, looking instead towards a road bridge further up the Medina.
Even if money was made available it would take 10-15 years for this to happen, if at all.
This wouldn’t help pedestrians to and from both towns and launches tend not to be profitable, unless there is a substantial hike in fares once again (Look at what was charged by the ferry taxi etc when the floating bridge was unavailable).
Create a worthwhile legacy
The current councillors (politicians) didn’t design or project manage this unsuitable floating bridge, so they have an opportunity to create a worthwhile legacy by taking option three above.
However they appear to be hiding behind supposed “legal” issues, which everyone can see through as a smokescreen, to try and in my view protect those who are culpable and should never be allowed to manage another project on this Island again.
It’s a simple choice:
- Unsuitable bridge: Make a loss and eat into other budgets across the Island.
- No bridge: No profit and continuing decline of East and West Cowes
- New/(possibly altered) bridge: Profit within the life of the bridge, looking long term.
Properly managed project
Time for a new bridge, designed using good engineering practice and managed by properly qualified project managers and systems engineers.
Trying to cut corners and use unqualified people has got us where we are today.
Image: © Karl Love