Letter: Call for MP to do more to tackle ‘exploitative’ ferry fares

An OnTheWight reader from Newchurch says ferry fares jumped by 40% in just two hours when he was planning his journey off the Island to take his son to University last weekend. He wants the Conservative Isle of Wight MP to do more to tackle the fares for Islanders

Red Funnel Ferry:

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 from Mark Lansbury, Newchurch, copied also to Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg. Ed

Dear Mr Andrew Turner,

I’ve had to book a car ferry yesterday in order to take our son back to university at the weekend. While we managed to avoid Wightlink’s dreadful pricing and services, Red Funnel managed to offend us with their punitive and abusive pricing structure. To quote the late Lance Corporal Jones, “Captain Mainwaring, they don’t like it up ’em!” Neither to my wife nor myself.

I was coordinating car ferry transport for our son, my wife and a friend.

40% price rise in less than two hours
At approximately 1208 yesterday afternoon (24 Sept) I checked sailings and pricing for an outbound sailing on 26 Sept, Friday. The 0835 departure displayed a rate of £23.75 with a Red Funnel promo code of TLM20.

After coordinating and getting the responses needed (balancing prices with departure times), I went to book the journey.

At approximately 1340 (about 92 minutes later) Red Funnel had increased the outbound fare at 0835 an abusive 40.6% to £33.40 (up from £23.75)!

Red Funnel’s argument will be along the lines of ‘managing capacity’ which, of course, is maximising profits. It’s an argument that seems to be accepted by some.

Red Funnel’s goal … to empty my bank account
However, let’s look at this from other than a corporate post of view: Looking at it from a human being and a voting British citizen, Red Funnel’s (and WightLink’s) action has one simple goal … that of emptying my bank account as much as possible.

Our ferries – my mistake, the corporation’s ferries – are, in a very real and practical sense, part of the UK’s national road network and should be operated as such.

Part of the road network?
Ferries connecting the Island’s roads to the mainland roads should be operated with this sole purpose as a goal.

They should not be operated in order for the elite to accumulate or transfer wealth from British working citizens to corporations and the elite who benefit from this exploitative behaviour.

I look forward to your solution to this chronic Island problem.

Best regards, Mark Lansbury, Newchurch

Image: Mike Russell under CC BY 2.0

Monday, 29th September, 2014 1:18pm


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

Filed under: Ferry, Island-wide, Letter to the Editor, Travel

Any views or opinions presented in the comments below must comply with the Commenting 'House Rules' and are solely those of the author and do not represent those of OnTheWight.

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29 Comments on "Letter: Call for MP to do more to tackle ‘exploitative’ ferry fares"

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Well said Mark Trouble is all the decisions regarding the Isle of Wights ferry prices are taken in Ivory Towers One is in Newark, New Jersey USA (Prudential Insurance) The other somewhere in the Southern Hemisphere of our planet (Macquarie Capital) Strange isn’t it that someones pension and and another’s Hedge-fund Profits rely on you taking your son back to university It’s astonishing that investors in far… Read more »
think again
Please don’t delude yourself and think the ferries are running because of Islanders need. You are not the main users and your monies are only the icing on the cake. 80+% of their turnover is from Commercial freight & mainlanders coming over for holidays. Therefore they will not be too interested in your £50 or £60 as they are looking at the much bigger picture!
Steve Goodman

Aren’t those journeys also meeting islander’s needs, because of the dependence on imported food & other goods and the visitor’s spending, and any benefit from commercial export?


Isn’t the Cowes Floating Bridge the “Most Expensive Car Ferry” in the world @ £2 for 160 yds?


If it isn’t now, it soon will be!


I don’t know why Red Funnel don’t do a multilink pass style system like Wightlink do. That gets my car and up to 7 people a return journey at under £50 no matter when it is booked. Admittedly you have to pay for 5 returns up front, but it really saves on the fares, particularly in the summer.

Dalek, Unfortunately it is not that simple as you state “no matter when booked”. If you try to book using your Wightlink multilink pass on a busy ferry period you will often find that there is zero availability. However if you are willing to book those same sailings without using your prepaid tickets (obviously at the exorbitant spot-market rate) there will be availability! Wightlink obviously don’t publicise… Read more »

I can neither confirm or deny your claim. All I can say, with honesty, is that I’ve never had a problem.

Jane Edmunds

I can confirm this, I recently went to book a ticket on line with the motorhome offer only to find there were no spaces available for the whole day. I phoned only to find there were spaces available at a much higher price.

sam salt
I booked on the 0835 ferry on Friday. My booking was made at 5.30pm the previous evening using a travelcard which gives me 20% discount. I only paid £23.75 for the journey so perhaps there was an “operator error” when making the booking by Mark. Dalek you can get discounts with Red Funnel by purchasing a travel card. Dependent on the amount you place on the card… Read more »

Oh, that’s worth knowing. Thanks.


Red Funnel replied stating the inflated fare I paid was correct:

“I can see from our system that you have now made the booking and on checking the price you have paid I can see that it is on our lowest fare available for the dates and times.”


I recently wrote to Andrew Turner expressing similar concerns as the author. (although my focus was Wightlink) His response?

Join the Better ferry campaign!

Although I did sign up – I am completely underwhelmed.

Is anybody actually doing anything there, now they have all got their mugs on a video.


The Island Ferries and Port Facilities should be nationalised and operated by franchise.

Phil Marsh

Its called market pricing and is driven by supply and demand. No different to plane, train or coach tickets. That’s how business works!

I travelled Red Funnel on Sunday and it is far better than Wightlink but there is the rub, its a duopoly and not a monopoly.

Matt Edmunds
This model is fine for booking hotels and airliner seats. That’s never described a cynical or exploitative. But they’re not lifelines. I agree they shoudl be viewed as part of the road network, but the only solution to this problem is regulation or nationalisation. I can’t see how you could regulate fares or insist on loss-making crossings without also subsidising the route(s). Subsidy would have to come… Read more »

Don’t vote for parties of ‘either’ colour in future?

The Sciolist
Most of us have no choice of route to and from the Island. Our route of choice is and should sensibly be the one most convenient for our departure and depends on where on the mainland we are going. Wightlink and Red Funnel have absolute monopolies on those routes – so why does the OFT not understand this? Visitors to the Island have less time pressure and… Read more »
Agreed. I’ve lost out being hired on at least one job in Portsmouth because of the ferry service. They were concerned I’d be unable to always get into work and, at times, not get home as a foot passenger due to Wightlink’s elimination of ferries after 2215. This in spite of advising them I would travel on the car ferry as a foot passenger. Their minds were… Read more »

The UK government have subsidised the Scottish ferries for years ,so why not our ferries? We could build any new ferries on the island.


FERRIES PLAN (2013-2022).

Mark F

R.E.T Road equivalent tariff if its good for the Scots its good Island. The thing the Scots do which we don’t is make a fuss. If the Isle Wight was in Scotland we would have R.E.T , two MP’s let alone the extra spending on health and education. So if Turner doesn’t deliver on cheaper ferry fares we should bloke the ports, be more Scottish.


The Road Equivalent Tariff (RET) scheme involves setting ferry fares on the basis of the cost of travelling an equivalent distance by road. Typically RET would offer substantial fares reductions across almost all ferry routes in Scotland. – See more at: http://www.transportscotland.gov.uk/news/final-ferries-blueprint-next-decade#sthash.Z6hJa6cN.dpuf



Really?….have you got a source to validate that statement?


To put existing ferry prices into perspective, if the Scottish Road Equivalent Tariff was applied to IoW ferry routes, a quick and dirty calculation suggests the following *single* fares would be levied EC-Soton (foot) £3.20 (car) £12.20 (Commercial vehicle) £22.16 FB-Pompey (foot) £2.65 (car) £8.90 (CV) £21.17 Yar-Lym (foot) £2.40 (car) £7.40 (CV) £20.72 [*However* – be aware -because of the RET structure of Core plus Rate… Read more »
Mark Flower

That’s if the Floating Bridge was a ferry which its not, I think the clues in the name.


Don’t be clever! There used to be a ‘chain ferry’ between Gosport and Portsmouth. The clue’s in the name.


People are planning to line the streets of main Island towns mourning the death of Irony! :-)

Having paid£108 for the two of us to go by Wightlink from Yarmouth to lymingtom for a week away in August,I got Ill and we turned up on the return journey earlier than we had booked to come home..only a matter of hours and we had to pay a further £41 ..beggars belief. I have booked a week away in June next year and thinking I could… Read more »