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Letter: Parents should not be penalised with rise of Floating Bridge charges

With the cost for pedestrians set to rise by 50% on the Cowes Floating Bridge – which makes a profit each year – East Cowes councillor, Luisa Hillard, says it’s unfair that families should be financially penalised through no fault of their own.

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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 Luisa Hillard, East Cowes. Ed

Since the Conservative-led Cross Party Alliance released details of their Budget proposals there has been concern among parents in East and West Cowes regarding the school run for primary school children.

Pupils travelling between both towns
As the Isle of Wight Councillor for East Cowes, I am aware that a number of parents from Cowes use Holy Cross Catholic Primary School in East Cowes for faith reasons.

Meanwhile there are parents from East Cowes who have to take their primary school children to West Cowes, due to a shortage of local school places. Or children have been moved because parents feel that the local schools could not meet their child’s needs.

Driving to school (on the main roads) is a distance of 9.4 miles, which far exceeds the two mile criteria for free primary school transport.

The cost of the school run
However, the Floating Bridge means that parents can take a short-cut across the Medina River and this route falls below the two mile limit and therefore parents who must drive are forced to pay £5.80 per day for taking the car on the Bridge, or drive round at up to an hour return journey, twice per day.

However, with the Floating Bridge out of action this short-cut is not currently available and parents must therefore drive round 9.4 miles each way, twice a day – approx 37 miles per day. Or walk.

Costs for pedestrians
So, let’s take a look at pedestrians who walk to school, whether due to being environmentally conscious, unable to drive, or due to the prohibitive cost of driving.

The time is much the same. Two hours of your day gone. How are working parents to manage?

A few years ago pedestrians travelled for free on the Floating Bridge, so there was obviously some concern when the £0.40 return fare was introduced. And, although children continued to be free, their accompanying parent had to pay. This meant a charge of £0.80 per day, £4 per week.

Then the prices went up to £0.70 per return, with a weekly charge of £7.

£10 per week for parents
Now we have a Conservative proposal to raise pedestrian prices by up to an extra 50% and parents are starting to panic that they will soon be spending £2 per day, £10 per week.

That’s a cost of about £400 per year that each family needs to find, just to get their child to school. Many of these are families with young children where the main carer does not work.

Unfair on families
Whilst I understand that government cuts are threatening local services, I don’t accept an increase in charges for a service that the Council claims is already profitable. Or in the context of the new bridge paid for by grant funding, at no cost to the Council.

It therefore seems unfair to me that families should be financially penalised, let alone the inconvenience of an extended school run, due to no fault of their own.

Image: wwarby under CC BY 2.0

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Friday, 10th February, 2017 2:39pm



Filed under: Budget Cuts, Cowes, East Cowes, Island-wide, Isle of Wight Council, Letter to the Editor

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  1. Please correct me if I am wrong LH but was it not the independent group who put the charges on the chain bridge in the first place ? even though it was making a profit ? . There should be no charge for foot passengers on the chain bridge at all .Your comments are like the pot calling the kettle black

    • Luisa Hillard

      10.Feb.2017 4:29pm

      tosh and tiki, I argued (and voted) against the reintroduction of pedestrian charges. The majority of Councillors (from all parties) voted in favour. I would therefore consider that I am being consistent in my concern over the effects of charging.

      However, the issue now is a 50% increase in travel costs which, on top of the extra Police precept and likely 5% Council Tax increase, is going to push some families over the edge.

  2. Back in the 90’s ( I think ) you had to pay to cross. So when was it free? I don’t agree with the price hike, nor do I agree with motorists always having to have their prices hiked. Last year the Indies put the prices up so don’t be hypocritical Cllr Hillard.

  3. You are right Tiki but from memory children went for free and adults paid 10 pence

  4. this bridge needs to revert to being free for foot passengers. the times I have used it as a motorist it has been interesting to see the number of foot passengers, it must be well nigh impossible to charge them anyway.

  5. Both sides of the River benefit from the chain ferry; employers and employees.
    If there demands for a £10 a week pay rise, there would be outrage. Yet the ferry charge amounts to a £10 a week wage reduction!
    Nom outrage, just acceptance. Is that the best the East and West Cowes Town Councils can come up with? The ferry crossing should be non-profit making.
    Charging school children multiplies the additional £10 a week/child using the bridge increases further the burden on hard pressed on hard pressed families.
    Interesting ton hear our MP’s view!

  6. Back in the 60’s and 70’s passengers used to get charged, we had to change schools from Cowes Secondary to East Cowes for science lessons midday and pay each time.

    The charges were at some point were dropped for pedestrians and all foot passengers enjoyed for a number of years, free travel, despite this it still manged to turn a profit.

    The Floating Bridge is becoming a Council ‘Cash Cow’, I believe that when the New One goes into service there will be fewer crew, so the wage bill should be less.

    • Luisa Hillard

      10.Feb.2017 4:38pm

      The Floating Bridge does run at a profit and this will be higher when the new bridge comes into service, assuming that it will be more reliable and require less maintenance.

      There is a problem though in that the Council has never set aside any of this income/profit to allow saving up for the next replacement.

      One of the reasons I argued against charging those with bus passes is that we don’t know how much money is being lost by them choosing to go round by bus for free, instead of the £1 return ticket. On the bus this costs the Council 4 single fares at about 40% the ‘average adult fare’.

      • East Cowes

        10.Feb.2017 4:58pm


        Maybe clarify for the people.

        The floating bridge (before pedestrian charges) ran at a large profit which was never reinvested back into the floating bridge et al.

        Charging pedestrians has made a very small profit offset against the costs (ticket collectors, etc.) and attrition HOWEVER they have not counted the haemorrhaging money from people using concessionary bus passes to go around by bus or to Newport instead. At £12.16 return trip (or £6.08 to Newport and back only), the Council is losing all of their profit.

        Raising the prices more will cause even higher attrition.

        It’s never worth charging if, by charging, you lose profit. The floating bridge had a good profit, now it makes less of a profit charging pedestrians. (I’ve seen data.)

      • East Cowes

        10.Feb.2017 5:00pm

        Also, not charging those with bus passes still requires that they take the time to present their bus pass.

        There has been significant attrition overall as well.

      • Its a great pity that the IWC did not pursue funding for a bridge or tunnel to connect east and west Cowes.

  7. East Cowes

    10.Feb.2017 4:33pm

    Luisa, you forgot to add that it still does NOT make as much profit as it used to (the pedestrian charges are losing the Council money with the pensioner and disabled bus passes for the many, many people who are going around by bus now. Geoff Lumley had looked up those figures and the average of the two figures for concessionary bus passes (what the Council pays Southern Vectis) has been £3.04 every time a pension touches their card to the reader.

  8. Ian Young

    10.Feb.2017 5:09pm

    I fully understand that the Independents were a minority administration.

    Nevertheless had their Group Leader and Deputy Leader not chosen to walk away the Tories would not be writing this year’s Budget.

    As such the local East Cowes Members of the then ruling group might have been able to use their influence and prevent these increases, which I agree have serious financial implications for many of their constituents and for many others in West Cowes.

    And, finally, it really is time for those on the Left/Centre Left of the political spectrum to spend a little less time complaining about the Tories and a little more time articulating an alternative that is slightly more appealing to voters than that which they have on offer at the moment.

  9. jack black

    10.Feb.2017 7:48pm

    i see the increases of pedestrian charges as an extra tax on the residents of East Cowes.
    Given some will come across from east cowes and there are tourist journeys. I used to walk into cowes for shopping and the exercise. i would use the cycle path to Newport. Now i use the roads . i haven’t visited Cowes since june last year. I feel sorry for the people who have to use this service out of necessity.

    • I’m the same. I used to regularly use the bridge for car crossing and nightly to go to Cowes to have a beer each evening. Since the ticket machines were installed I’ve used the service twice.

  10. The TORIEs have started. Raising the fare to use the chain ferry that have being making eye watering PROFITS year after year. But than it was vehicles only, NOW with passages also the PROFITS must have gone into OUTER SPACE.

  11. temperance

    11.Feb.2017 2:50pm

    Swim, would have in my day.

  12. wightsquatch

    12.Feb.2017 8:14pm

    Firstly please stop making this a political issue. This is a real hardship to many already struggling families and it sickens me to read this party political BS. We have to make this journey at least twice a day taking children to school. This charge should never have been introduced as it is an unfair tax which singles out residents of Cowes (both East and West) who have to pay to cross a river which bisects their town. This tax is not applied to residents of other towns with the same situation such as Wootton or Yarmouth. As has been pointed out by previous posters the levy is not to pay for the running of the bridge as it has always operated in the black. We are being forced to contribute to the council coffers whereas residents of other island towns are not. At the very least we should have a concessionary rate.

    • Luisa Hillard

      12.Feb.2017 8:44pm

      I am particularly concerned about the effect on parents doing the school run. East Cowes is not rich and I don’t feel that parents should have to pay at all to take their children to school.


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