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UPDATED: A major new scheme has been launched today (Tuesday) offering discounted cross-Solent travel for Island families and other residents on low incomes.

The initiative has been developed by the Isle of Wight Council with ferry companies Wightlink, Red Funnel and Hovertravel – via the Island’s Transport Infrastructure Board.

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Each ferry operator has its own fixed-priced discount covering foot passengers, cars and motorbikes. The Isle of Wight Council says pricing information is available on each travel operator’s website, however at the time of publishing the information does not appear to be listed.

The new scheme means mainland travel costs will be made easier for work, health and other journeys for Islanders receiving housing benefit and/or local council tax support.

Council leader, Councillor Dave Stewart, said:

“It’s absolutely vital that all residents on the Island have the ability to travel to the mainland when they need to, and we welcome these excellent steps that have been put in place by Wightlink, Red Funnel and Hovertravel to make this possible.

“We have been looking at a range of ways to support Islanders through the work of our Transport Infrastructure Board, and are delighted this has now borne fruit.

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“This initiative also supports the work of our MP Bob Seely, who continues to highlight the unique challenges Islanders face with cross-Solent travel.”

Wightlink’s chief executive, Keith Greenfield, said:

“We want to make sure low-income families have every opportunity to travel to the mainland for work, leisure and any other reason.

“We have worked closely with the Isle of Wight Council on this and are pleased that the discount travel scheme has now been launched.”

Red Funnel chief executive, Fran Collins, said:

“We are delighted to offer fixed price fares to low income households on the Island. This is designed to make it easier and cheaper for eligible Islanders to visit the mainland.”

To qualify for the scheme, Island residents must be claiming housing benefit and/or local council tax support. It is estimated as many as 14,000 people are in this category.

Applicants should register with the ferry company they wish to travel with, via their website, and the council will automatically assess their eligibility. If approved they will receive a dedicated customer account and ID code and the discount will then be applied automatically each time they book.

A minimum of 7 working days in advance of travel will be needed for eligibility checks to be processed.

Those wishing to travel with Hovertravel can buy a discounted ticket at the Ryde terminal by showing a copy of their current council tax bill with evidence of local council tax support – or a copy of their current benefit notification letter together with their photo ID.

UPDATE @ 13:58 – Isle of Wight MP, Bob Seely, has said in a statement:

“This is a welcome announcement and should help many low-income families on the Island.

“It goes some way to address issues of affordability for those who, at present, find it a struggle to afford to use the ferries. “I thank the Island’s council and the ferry companies for coming together to set up this scheme.

“I would also like to thank Christopher Garnet and the Transport Infrastructure Board for their key work. They, the council and I have been working together. Our message to the ferries has been that we need deeds, and not just warm words, to show that they are on the side of Islanders.

“This is also the first proof of what I hope will be a better relationship between the ferry firms and the Island going forward. All of us representing Islanders will continue to work in a united way to find ways to encourage and enable the ferries to serve Islanders better.

“Today’s announcement, however, doesn’t address broader issues around fair ferry prices. I will continue to make the case that Islanders are being unfairly treated by what is effectively a duopoly.”

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