Isle of Wight MP, Andrew Turner, is seeking a meeting with the Rt Hon Vince Cable MP, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, to discuss cross-Solent ferry services.
This follows the recent announcement by Wightlink that overnight services on their three routes are to be axed. He is also looking at ways to raise the issue in the House of Commons.
Mr Turner said:
“We have been constantly told fares are high because they subsidise loss-making, overnight services. Well surprise, surprise! Wightlink have not announced fare cuts to compensate for the loss of those services. Islanders need ferries to access hospital and other health services, work and business opportunities and education, as well as to keep in touch with family and friends; the public are absolutely right to be concerned. These changes will end the possibility of an evening out on the mainland and make the Island even more isolated.”
Mr Turner, who, in 2009, spearheaded a campaign for the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) to examine the cross-Solent ferry market, also spoke about the effect of the changes on the Island’s economy:
“The OFT accepts the ferries are a lifeline service. However they found limited evidence of what they call ‘consumer detriment’, and so decided not to take their investigation any further. I believe their definition of consumer detriment was too narrow and I have raised that with their Chairman Philip Collins – he said he would consider the argument. But the OFT also found there was no easy answer to the problems – increasing competition is not possible because the existing ferry companies own or have long term leases on all the berthing facilities on the Island. So even if the OFT were to widen its definition, it is hard to see what remedy they could impose.
“The ferries are private companies and can change their prices or services at will, with no consultation or consideration of the economic or social impact on the Island and Islanders. That is why I want to talk to the Secretary of State about the wider issues. I have also written to various organisations asking for their views and would especially welcome hearing from Island businesses with details of what these changes mean for them”.
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