New Floating Bridge: £3.2m build now commissioned

The current Floating Bridge has been in use since 1976, so it seems reasonable that it should be retired. Here are the details on its newly-announced replacement.

Floating Bridge

The council shares this update on the future of the floating bridge at Cowes. Ed

A new floating bridge that will better connect Cowes and East Cowes has been commissioned. The £3.2 million replacement floating bridge is currently being built by Welsh firm Mainstay Marine Solutions Limited.

Councillor Jonathan Bacon, Leader of the Council, said:

“The new floating bridge will be more efficient than the current chain ferry, which has been in operation since 1976. Capacity will be improved to carry more vehicles. Having a new vessel will also help to improve reliability.”

Part of the Solent Gateways project
The new chain ferry, due for delivery during winter 2016/17, will ensure the future connectivity between Cowes and East Cowes, for at least the next 25 years, and forms part of the wider Solent Gateways project.

For the Island, the Solent Gateways project aims to: integrate transports links to and from the Island and across the wider area from Southampton, provide a vital tourism link, and to improve the public realm in East Cowes to make it a more welcoming destination.

Funding being finalised
The funding agreement for the new floating bridge is currently being finalised with the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership (SLEP).

Stewart Graves from Mainstay Marine, said:

“We pride ourselves in our ability to provide bespoke solutions to individual vessel designs and look forward to working with Isle of Wight council to ensure that the bridge is delivered to time, within budget and to the highest of quality so that its users can enjoy its benefits for years to come.”

A new ticketing solution is also in progress and will be launched later in the spring, which will enable people to buy a ‘pre-paid card’ style ticket. Installation of the new self-service machines will take place in April.

Image: © Allan Marsh

Thursday, 24th March, 2016 1:05pm



Filed under: Cowes, East Cowes, Island-wide, Isle of Wight News, Roads, Top story, Travel

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29 Comments on "New Floating Bridge: £3.2m build now commissioned"

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Good, but why can’t they introduce contactless payments like the Underground? Quicker and more convenient that the pre-paid card, surely? (though have that too for those without contactless)


Quite right, bus and train operators are fast discovering that the public have moved on from gimmicky smart cards, contactless is fast becoming established as the new way to pay, and that’s what the Council should concentrate their efforts on.


OK, shall I be the first to ask:

Why not build it on the island? There are many capable shipyards presumably all would benefit from the order – and it creates/retains more jobs on the island.

Roger Cheesman

As a Welshman, I am pleased to see the new ferry will be built in Wales. However, as a new(ish) islanders I have to wonder why East Cowes, with such a long heritage of marine engineering wasn’t chosen as the place to build it as the are now doing for the new Red Jet

phil jordan
TL/RC: Disappointing as it is that we have not got a local builder….it is nonetheless good news that it is going to be built and put into service. Tendering is a heavily regulated process and under EU rules (via the OJEU) has to be offered for tender Europe wide (if it is above a certain threshold). It is even more precarious in selection of bids… you cannot… Read more »

One of many reasons to leave the EU!


I’ve absolutely no issue with Wales but maybe Councillor Jonathan Bacon, Leader of the Council could clarify why the work did not go to an IOW yard. There is obviously a good reason such as, no local business tendered or, if they did, they were not competitive.

Simon Cooke

Additional info:

Burness Corlett Three Quays (BCTQ) secured the contract to design and supervise the build of the new ferry in September 2015.

IWC spending data shows that up to the end of January they had received £87,000 in relation to Cowes Floating Bridge.

Luisa Hillard
As Phil Jordan has already explained, contracts of this size have to go out to tender under EU procurement law. It was therefore advertised in the EU Journal to invite expressions of interest. Island companies could therefore have bid for the work but didn’t. There may be many reasons for this. For example, the local boat builders I know of tend to work in aluminium or composites… Read more »

Another good reason to leave the EU.


Another fatuous argument that ignores the lack of competitive local bids you mean?


I think the money would have been better spent if it were put towards a fixed link over the Medina that would also help take some traffic off Coppins Bridge.

phil jordan


It can’t be…. the SLEP are very clear about changes to funding grants (or even changes to funding bids).

The money has been granted for the floating bridge…. that’s it, I am afraid.

Marc howland
…… this new floating bridge is a cause for celebration ?? Really ??…… If this scenario was in China, Germany or Scandinavia they would build (at the very least) a tunnel for pedestrians to access East Cowes/West Cowes 24/7 and/or a permanent dual vehicle/Pedestrian connection ….. this ‘transport link ‘ is a JOKE ….. along with the refusal to reopen the the pre-1967 railway lines (to at… Read more »
phil jordan


Where do you think the money to undertake such schemes might come from…..?

…and trains are NOT run by the iow ‘ruling elite’ either.
They are managed (and run) by the Dept of Transport…. but don’t let these facts get in the way.

Marc howland
….. well let’s see now ….. where do I think the money will come from ?? …. ah yes …. 10.5 BILLION a year to the EUssr ….. 12 BILLION a year to Foreign (DESPOT) aid ….. millions a year to foreign nationals’ child benefit paid to foreign bank accounts ….. £1400 a year local council tax a year to get your bins (if you have one)… Read more »
phil jordan
MH: My goodness….. and here was I thinking you were discussing the Isle of Wight. OK. One part of your comments that THIS Council (your “ruling elite”) can impact…. and even then it’s wrong. Council Tax does NOT [even] cover the cost of Social Care on this Island – adults and children combined) – let alone anything else such as refuse collection…. (for your information: council tax… Read more »
Marc Howland


In your original comment you asked
” Where do you think the money to undertake such schemes might come from….. ” ?


phil jordan


which money….from where…and from when….?

[of course, you assume that such money – and that hasn’t been costed out by you yet – was *once* available for such a scheme….)

Marc howland

…..I guess it’s worth a reminder that the IOW is the LARGEST CONSTITUENCY in the UK and yet when it comes to infrastructure the political elite treat the island like it’s unworthy of this status …..

phil jordan
MH: So… thus far, no real answers to the questions I have posed…. Therefore…..Can you explain what the largest constituency amounts to in terms of financial sustainability….? or revenue support grant under the current system we all exist within…? or what this Island produces in financial revenue from business rates…? or, indeed, how small unitaries (for that is what we ALSO are) can survive cuts to their… Read more »
Steven Goodman

Our government’s contribution to civilisation: an expanding Silent Spring of services and democracy?


Rachel Carson’s new DDT for the Island?

Dave Did it To us? :-))


Is this a nice little sweetener before they re develop East Cowes and make it into a giant marshalling yard for Red Funnel ?

Terry Carpenter
When the Council took over the control and operation of the floating bridge service, they also had purpose built new craft constructed to run the service. Bridge No.1 1909-1936 construction cost £3,200 Bridge No.2 1925-1952 construction cost £8,426 Bridge No.3 1936-1975 construction cost £12,000 Bridge No.4 1952-1982 construction cost £25,530 Bridge No.5 1975-2017 construction cost £280,000 Bridge No.6 2017- ? construction cost £3,200,000 The pound ain’t worth… Read more »

By then we will hopefully have done what the French did many years ago – issued a new pound instead of existing ten pounds or hundred pounds,


280,000 in 1975 is 2,600,000 in today’s money using a website based converter.


Presumably the greater capacity is acheived by building the ferry longer. Good idea, less far to travel. Bad idea, longer turn round times. Hopefully the ferry will have rollers on both ends, so that it can pull itself off the slipway when stranded by a falling tide.
see above.


Why not make everyone swim, it would reduce costs, help with the obesity problem and lessen the island population, well at least to the next influx of oveners.