ISLE OF WIGHT FERRY COMPANIES GIVEN ANOTHER £6.5MILLION BY GOVERNMENT

A further £6.5million is to be given to Wightlink, Red Funnel and Hovertravel to safeguard the vital links between the Isle of Wight and the mainland.

The Government funding, which is in addition to the £4.9million already paid out to the ferry operators, will help support jobs, ensure Islanders can access key medical services and ensure the supply of essentials like food and medicine.

It’s known that £1.5million was paid out in April, May and June with a further £426,000 paid in July, but it’s not entirely clear if the ferry companies received further payouts in the latter months. This latest funding will be available to support operators’ costs for the period of November 2020 to March 2021.

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This most recent wad of cash is not expected to reinstate services such as Wightlink’s Ryde Pier Head route, which has already been suspended. Red Funnel are running a reduced timetable and Hovertravel have cut services to 2-hourly at the weekend.

Today’s news comes just a week after Bob Seely MP and council leader Dave Stewart called on the Government to introduce a regulatory and governance model for the ferries. Mr Seely has that the Island’s connectivity to the mainland is currently entirely at the discretion of unregulated, privately-owned operators who are ultimately not formally answerable for their operational decisions to anyone but their shareholders. These exact same companies are now set to receive a further £6.5million of public money.

The Island’s MP also said last Friday that Islanders cannot rely on the ferries being there to provide lifeline services.

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Steve Barclay, said:

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“These ferry services are essential to everyday life on the Isle of Wight, and this further package of funding will help ensure residents can continue to access healthcare and essential goods and services.

“It’s vital no community or region is left behind as we fight the Coronavirus pandemic and build back better.”

Sarah Williams, Associate Director of Research & Improvement at Solent NHS, said:

“The commitment of Hovertravel and other carriers to continue their service across the Solent has been a lifeline to the NHS and other communities through the pandemic – myself and colleagues (including the ambulance service) have been able to support the pandemic response across Hampshire &The IOW, the resource supply chain has been maintained, and patients have been able to access the critical services that they need.

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“Without their support and service, there is no doubt that the quality of services both on the Island and the mainland would have been severely compromised, and patients would not have received treatment and care that they needed. Within the NHS and care system, we consider Hovertravel, Wightlink and Red Funnel part of our critical infrastructure and have been struck by the extra efforts they’ve gone to in supporting us in a COVID safe manner.  The adaptability, positivity and cheer that they do this with is something that we won’t ever forget and for which we are extremely grateful. “

As well as ensuring funding is in place to enable the ferry operators to continue running, the Government has relaxed competition law to allow ferry operators to work together to continue to run essential services.

UPDATE @ 08:40 – In response to today’s news, Carl Feeney of the Fixed Link campaign has said:

“Yet another £6.5million is being given to the ferry company shareholders as a gift. What do we get for that? Answer – STILL suspended routes and reduced schedules on the rest. The ferry companies hold all the control. We are all subservient to them. Complete madness yet it continues.

“£6.5million would pay 642 x the £94,000 that is now required for the ARUP viability study into the Solent Freedom Tunnel – a study that was recommended be done by the IOW Transport Infrastructure Taskforce in 2017. The tunnel will provide reliable and immediate, 24 hour connectivity for NHS patients requiring it in the future”.

Meanwhile, Fran Collins, CEO of Red Funnel, has said:

“We are grateful to learn of the financial support announced by the Government and are pleased that lifeline services to the Isle of Wight have again been recognised as critical routes, as they were in the first lockdown, along with the Isles of Scilly.

“We look forward to working with the Isle of Wight Council to understand the distribution of support and identify the service levels needed to keep our lifeline service in place.

“While we do not anticipate the support will be enough to offset the growing losses we have continued to absorb since the onset of the pandemic, the funding will be fully used to maintain our lifeline service as agreed with the Isle of Wight Council, and we will continue to do everything we can to keep the Island connected and supplied, as we have since March.

“We wish to thank the Department for Transport, the Isle of Wight Council and its Transport Infrastructure Board for their vital support in helping us continue sailing and serving our Island community.”

Keith Greenfield, Chief Executive of Wightlink, has said:

“Wightlink welcomes news of some financial support for cross Solent routes announced by the Government.

“Although more essential travellers are crossing the Solent at present, compared to the first lockdown in spring 2020, Wightlink continues to make losses during the pandemic and the Government support just announced will not change that.

“The support may help us keep our Lymington-Yarmouth route open on weekdays but it is disappointing that Wightlink’s FastCat foot passenger route between Portsmouth Harbour and Ryde Pier Head has been specifically excluded from the support package.”

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The Original Lady Dunstanding
The Original Lady Dunstanding
1 year ago

Ah yes! Those vital links… The sort which provide conveyance to people wanting to buy property as holiday lets. The big, more established, estate agents have really secure Covid measures, such as reducing viewing times of properties to ten minutes, rather than thirty… Result? Mainland buyers badger Island staff in said Estate agents for more viewings so that they can ‘make a day of it’. Actual quote from someone who works for the most established land agent on Wight. When that employee suggested that the company remind the mainland plague evacuees/bringers that hunting holiday homes is not essential travel, said employee was threatened with the sack…!

Smithy
Smithy
Reply to  The Original Lady Dunstanding
1 year ago

That’s appalling! These househunters need to be named and shamed. I think estate agents should be refusing viewings from mainland as it’s completely in essential travel.

Chiz
Chiz
Reply to  The Original Lady Dunstanding
1 year ago

Money over people’s safety yet again!

Great Post though

Perhaps we should get Dave & Bob to comment? But I’m sure they’d dodge the issue as usual, plus they won’t blame mainlanders for bringing the new strain of covid to the island as many won’t, including lots of the posters on here.

But slice it anyway you want it still came from the mainland and it didn’t fly on it’s own.

Shinxson
Shinxson
1 year ago

It would be great if the ferry company’s passed some of that cash onto the passengers by reducing the ticket prices. Spread the wealth!!

Old bean
Old bean
Reply to  Shinxson
1 year ago

Red jet has reduced prices

Banner
Banner
1 year ago

These operators make me sick.
All take and no give.

Mandy
Mandy
Reply to  Banner
1 year ago

You are being unfair, they gave us this latest surge in the virus, and will keep letting non essential travel happen.

Old bean
Old bean
Reply to  Banner
1 year ago

Least there providing link so nhs workers can get to mainland too do a amazing job so shut up whinging

freeloaders
freeloaders
Reply to  Banner
1 year ago

the alternative could be that all ferry operators shut down, furlough all staff and then how do u get your food

Charlie
Charlie
1 year ago

Good job ferry companies thanks for bringing all the people over at Christmas time now have £6.5 million to share between you as a reward. Should have a fine of £6.5 million for bringing people over at Christmas.

freeloader
freeloader
Reply to  Charlie
1 year ago

tool

Anxious
Anxious
Reply to  Charlie
1 year ago

With you 100% Charlie. Who are these people who are naive enough to think that the ferries have stayed open for moral reasons? Blood on the hands of those who count their profit at the end of the next financial year and I’ve no doubt there’ll still be one. Ryde pier head service suspended and Yarmouth to Lymington suspended earlier in the year “due to lack of bookings”. No thought given to any key workers who rely on these services – so support for them being a reason for staying afloat hardly credible.

freeloader
freeloader
Reply to  Anxious
1 year ago

anxious – you cannot state that the ferries have blood on their hands staying open, then complain that they aren’t running for key workers – you are contradicting yourself and as such, your comment is ignored.

Anxious
Anxious
Reply to  freeloader
1 year ago

I obviously meant “blood on their hands” due to non essential travellers being allowed over here in their droves and islanders going back and forth to the mainland for non essential purposes. It goes without having to be said that of course they should remain open for essential travel and supplies and in those circumstances the ferries should indeed get financial help from the government. Where did I actually say they shouldn’t be running? “As such” don’t put your own meaning on what other people say!!! Pompous twit!

Bert
Bert
1 year ago

Well the ferry companys receive a few million, yet Britain’s railways get Billions.

freeloaders
freeloaders
1 year ago

whilst it may seem a lot..consider running costs and no revenue.

I will be looking for the publicy available accounts to end of each ferry companies financial year to see if they actually needed the cash. They most likely will publish them this summer…figures do not lie..even if it shows they genuinely needed the cash to pay staff to keep working and operating

Terry
Terry
1 year ago

Wightlink just announced they are closing their takeaway food outlets ( doesn’t say onboard or ashore, or both), and customers are banned from bringing their own food and drink aboard. Nice customer service.!!!

Jane 75
Jane 75
Reply to  Terry
1 year ago

To be fair it’s only an hour. I’m sure people can go without food or drink for an hour. It’s not about customer service it’s about limiting spread of Covid (in queues) less staff on board for it to spread between. Staff cost money. Food waste with not as many customers. I’m sure if you have medical need (diabetic) you won’t be stopped have a couple of sweets.

Marcus
Marcus
Reply to  Terry
1 year ago

I use the service daily and to be fair they needed to stop people eating and drinking onboard. People would often buy a drink and take there mask of for the rest of the trip where as they should have only removed the mask whilst actually drinking it.

anon
anon
1 year ago

We should get free travel then if our tax payers money is paying for it.

freeloader
freeloader
Reply to  anon
1 year ago

we should get free prescriptions, free dental, free school meals, free parking and many more things that we already pay for through taxation, but then have to pay more personally to access – but it never happens.

the money paid to these companies is to keep them going for a few months, not to fully fund them with no end.

Julia
Julia
1 year ago

Another 6 1/2 million our MP Bob Seely has got the Shareholders of these companies to line their pockets as nothing will change regarding the service.
It’s not about the service at all its all about keeping the shareholders happy.
It’s not government money it’s mine and yours to keep the rich happy.

Darren Street
Darren Street
1 year ago

So can all of the Island businesses now also expect a grant to such vast amounts because we have also made significant losses during this pandemic….I fully understand that the transport links are essential but I would love to understand how the government has concluded that £6.5m is needed … There are many companies throughout the UK who have been hard hit by the Covid pandemic, some of her to shut their doors and others have maintained their presents but suffered with severe loss of profits, So what makes our island ferry companies/Hovertravel more mandate compared to other businesses. Personally I would rather have seen £6.4m go to the Ferry companies and the other £100,000 to fund the ARUP viability study into the Solent Freedom Tunnel and then let the island people decide but also the figures decide. Whilst many people will jump up and down and say that the… Read more »

freeloader
freeloader
Reply to  Darren Street
1 year ago

darren – you aren’t thinking it through

any tunnel etc would take many years to even get through the planning stages, let alone securing the actual billions needed to create it.

the islanders do not support a bridge or tunnel, otherwise they would have raised that 100k already, instead of still trying to get it over four years later.

the money paid to the ferry companies covers operating costs and staff salaries over the few months stated only.

Anxious
Anxious
Reply to  freeloader
1 year ago

There you go again freeloader!! I’m sure Darren has given a lot of thought to what he said. How insulting are you? Are you or have you ever been a school teacher by any chance?

Jonathan
Jonathan
1 year ago

Funny?! I was always told by the likes of Andrew Turner & Bob that the Government doesn’t help privately owned companies…the hypocrisy stinks.

 

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