At the weekend, the new floating bridge went into public use. There was much excitement as drivers and foot passengers took some of the first journeys.
However, it wasn’t all smiles and cheers. As cars disembarked from the bridge (not even at low tide), many of them struggled to do so without badly scraping the front of the vehicles. As it was such a public event, of course photos and videos were shared widely on social media.
In addition, during service on Sunday morning, the floating bridge lost power whilst it had passengers on board and they were stranded in the Medina for some time.
Foot passengers had to wade through knee-high water to get to land and the drivers had to wait until the engineer fixed the problem.
Taken out of service
Today (Monday), after being approached by the Maritime Coastguard Agency (MCA), the council have suspended the floating bridge service.
“The council is consulting with the MCA to confirm that all issues have been resolved necessary for the service to resume.
“The electrical fault that caused issues on Sunday has since been identified and fixed.
“It was anticipated that during the first couple of weeks, that there would be a few minor issues to be ironed out, some of which could not be identified until the vessel was back in service and in full use.”
Call for full investigation
Cllr Julia Baker-Smith, Member for Whippingham and Osborne and Leader of the Island Independents,
“I’m absolutely furious that there are problems with the new floating bridge. The people of East Cowes fought hard to retain this service, which looked like it could be lost completely back in 2013. We have waited far longer than we should have for it to come into service, with the resultant impact on the local economy and an estimated 20% drop in footfall to East Cowes Businesses.
“There was almost a carnival atmosphere when we boarded the new vessel Saturday afternoon and it was greeted by cheers on the East Cowes side, but the atmosphere soon turned when we came to realise there were apparent problems with the angle at which cars disembark.
“My family were in the first car to scrape its bumper as they drove off on the East Cowes side. To now learn that it has broken down with passengers on board is unacceptable.
“We are calling for a full investigation into why these problems have occurred and for those responsible to be held to account. There is obviously a lot of speculation as to how and why these problems have come about and you expect one or two teething troubles with anything new, but this seems to be more than teething trouble and the Council must get to bottom of what is happening and demand that it is rectified at no cost to Island tax payers.
“On behalf of East Cowes businesses I will also be calling for a dispensation on business rates to compensate those impacted by this prolonged disruption to their footfall.”
New bridge was tested with vehicles
The council spokesperson went on to say,
“During the preceding week, the new vessel underwent testing, including trips across the river Medina, embarkation and disembarkation with vehicles.
“It had always been anticipated that, as with any new vehicle, there would be a period of time for staff and users to become used to its operation. We would encourage all vehicle users to drive slowly onto and off of the floating bridge.
“We would like thank those involved in the issues encountered over the weekend for their patience and understanding, and to our staff for helping to enable passengers to disembark while the vessel was inoperable.”
Karl Love, Isle of Wight councillor East Cowes, told OnTheWight,
“I’m very concerned at what looked like a disaster in the miscalculation of the road angles which are damaging low level cars and long based vehicles. They scrape the ground as they load and unload from East Cowes.
“I understand several car owners are already planning to make claims against the council for damage, meanwhile cars continue to be loaded on board.
“There’s a catalogue of risks. Protruding bolts on the shelter footing causing trip points. Glass without any safety harm prevention messages printed on them as people may walk straight into them.
“One might ask to see the risk assessment and safety certificate issued for all the structures and vessel before it entered service.
“Then there is the issue of the location of the East Cowes ticket machine which has being located under householders windows and on land the IWC does not own.”
Image: © Karl Love