MP Bob Seely asks Government if they’d Nationalise an Isle of Wight Ferry company

Isle of Wight Conservative MP, Bob Seely, has sent seven questions to the Transport Minister about Isle of Wight ferries, including if they’d support renationalising one of the services.

bob seely on medical cannabis

This in from the office of Isle of Wight Conservative MP, Bob Seely. Ed

MP Bob Seely has written to the government asking it seven questions about the Island’s ferry companies including whether ministers would consider a buy-out of either Wightlink or Red Funnel.

Bob wrote to transport minister Nusrat Ghani this month and said Island residents were receiving “iniquitous treatment” compared to other UK Islands on travel costs and the companies were effectively a duopoly.

Bob has previously called for a public service obligation to be imposed on the ferry companies to lower the cost of travel and pointed out Scottish island travel is subsidised.

Concern over previous ‘denationalisation’
In the letter Bob said,

“Of particular concern to Islanders is the fact that the firm was ‘denationalised’ in the 1980s with no public service obligation, in stark contrast to the regulated, franchised arrangements subsequently put in place for the railways.

“Many of my constituents believe this to be a considerable mistake. The Island has suffered since by having some of the most expensive ferries (per mile) in the world.

“Even with some modest discounts occasionally offered by the ferry firms in some instances, this adds to operational costs for businesses and damages our visitor economy.”

Seely: Island getting bad deal on ferry travel
Bob said the letter was reflecting a widely-held view that the Island is getting a bad deal on ferry travel and he wants ministers to act.

He added,

“This letter is making it clear the government must look at this issue and answer these questions on behalf of Islanders. The cost of ferry travel is too much and I will continue to lobby the government to take action.”

Questions to the minister
The seven questions to the minister are:

  1. Do you believe that it is appropriate that the Isle of Wight continues to have some of the world’s most expensive ferries?
  2. Do you understand the concerns of my residents that one of their only means of taking a vehicle on and off the Island was privatised without any sort of service obligation to those who rely on it?
  3. Do you accept that the two main ferry firms run an effective duopoly? Do you accept that due to the overwhelming need and lack of real choice, ferry travel is not price sensitive?
  4. Do you believe it is acceptable for a ‘lifeline’ service to be structured in a purely commercial manner that results in the obligations to private shareholders always taking a higher priority than those of users?
  5. Is the Government willing to consider imposing a Public Service Obligation in the event of a sale of Wightlink?
  6. Can you explain to my constituents and myself what Government’s powers are to impose such a Public Service Obligation if it requires primary or secondary legislation, and, if so, would you be prepared to consider it either during Government time or through a Bill I introduce?
  7. Would the Government support a public buy-out, by local or national Government, of one of the ferry companies?

Response from ferry companies
In response to the news, Wightlink Chief Executive Keith Greenfield told OnTheWight,

“We will not be commenting on any potential change to the company’s ownership structure.”

At time of publishing Red Funnel had failed to respond, but we’ll update once we hear back from them.

Friday, 24th August, 2018 12:43pm



Filed under: Ferry, Island-wide, Isle of Wight News, Top story

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17 Comments on "MP Bob Seely asks Government if they’d Nationalise an Isle of Wight Ferry company"

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Bob Seely is asking some of the right questions and good on him for that. How successful he would be with a Private Members Bill remains to be seen. One of the key points is that the ferries are an integral part of the UK highway and therefore should be subject to a public service obligation which should facilitate access for all. There are not only people… Read more »

Have a read about Road Equivalent Tariff (RET)that is applied to the Scottish island ferries. Ther’s none of this time pricing nonsense either, just one flat fare. Remember the days when the IW used to have that?


That is worth a read by everyone… the statistics/analysis is very interesting. In short, car ferry prices were reduced by some 65/70% and traffic increased by 30-50%. Sounds like a no-brainer but who pays what to whom ?

Mike Starke
Darcy makes some excellent points. Here’s another “unacceptable” cost Wightlink imposes on its customers, especially those who have limited mobility and have no alternative than to park on the pier. They charge a quid to get onto the pier and then demand another £6.70 to park for between two to 16 hours. I suggest this catches most people, as a two-hour cross-Solent visit to Portsmouth would give… Read more »

They will take every opportunity to improve the financial yields of the company and do not care who they tread on to do it.

Please remember that the IOWC had the opportunity to purchase the part of SeaLink that served the island, the cost in the mid 1980’s £12 million. In 2018 that is the equivalent to £36,720,000. Wightlink’s owner, Basalt Infrastructure Partners, stated that it could be sold for an estimated £300m. That’s an 817% equivalent increase of what it could have been bought for. Ask yourself the question about… Read more »

Once again…

A fixed link would NOT lead to a drop in ferry fares. In any event it is extremely unlikely to happen, for massive economic , engineering and political issues in doing such a thing,

So, who owns Calmac, who provide the majority of Sailings to the Scottish Islands? The answer is effectively the Scottish government. It is worth having a look in the reports previously mentioned in this thread to see the price of crossings and see how a state owned company could dramatically reduce prices if the will to do so is there. This was one of the benefits… Read more »

I wrote to our MP the other week pointing out how the Scots are subsidising their Island Ferries with a £200 million grant , probably straight from us.

There is a petition that need another few thousand signatues

14 months after being elected Bob finally starts to ask questions about cross Solent travel, whatever took him so long? But there is much more to do, the CMA needs to enquire into whether the huge fare discounts that a few privileged companies get is disrupting the tourist and distributive trades on the island to the disadvantage of both businesses and public alike and we do need… Read more »
Well…. it appears the fixed link campaign is certainly putting the pressure on the MP to curtail the oppression on islanders and visitors alike by the two ferry companies. Think again though…. all is not as it appears. The facts: 1/ The MP’s cousin Patrick Seely is a Red Funnel Director. Red Funnel have already expressed an interest in lowering fares if the government will subsidise them.… Read more »

This looks more like a panic measure from Bob now that the IW Labour party are giving the matter their attention. He seems to have spent the greater part of the time since he was elected in trying to divert attention away from the cross-Solent transport issue.


If you took the interest on £3 billion (supposed cost of fixed link) you could run the ferries for free for perpetuity.

Thats not on Bob’s agenda or the Government’s. Free ferries are even less likely than the fixed link and there would still be the same old excuses about why they aren’t running. It would great if the IWC was to buy the Lymington-Yarmouth route off Wightlink and run it as a 24/7 shuttle service with a return fare of £ 20 for an HGV & £ 10… Read more »

so 3300m looks cheap & as per Wightlink site Investment funds such as the Macquarie European Infrastructure Fund (MEIF) have a lifespan. MEIF is reaching the end of its lifespan and so it’s selling a number of its investments, including Wightlink perhaps it is time that our ferries were more than just a temporary cash cow/investment.

One of the problems with the ferries there so called value (say £300M) has been boosted by the fact like most of these takeover companies they can set off the loan costs of purchase (at what ever inflated price that can be fixed) against profits thus reducing the tax man take for some years. Perhaps it is time the government stopped this practise which in turn would… Read more »