Wightlink User Group
I am writing on behalf of the WightLink User Group.
We are pleased to see that of the Department of Levelling UP, Communities and Jobs recognizes the uniqueness
and challenges of our Islands, and is committed to improving the economy and life experience of island
The Wightlink User group would like to be involved in the Islands Forum to ensure that the challenge that unregulated ferry services present to Islanders and Island economies is fully recognized.
The Wightlink User Group is quickly becoming a significant participant based broad church of people who wish to work to ensure that the management of ferry service does not damage the livelihoods and life experience of Islanders. The group began in November 2022, by the end of December the Wightlink User Group had garnered over 1000 supporters and the number is still growing.
On 5 March, rail fares rose by 5.9% (capped by the government), yet the already eye watering fares on WightLink rose around 10%. Anecdotal evidence, recently gathered from our website and facebook group, shows that many residents, particularly those on low or average income, are effectively marooned due to the unaffordable cost of ferry travel. Many people cannot accompany or visit family and friends when they have to access the increasing number of health services provided off the island and many leave the island permanently because it is so expensive to travel across the short distance to the mainland.
The Isle of Wight is a deprived county area. The Island’s unemployment rate of 7.5% is 3.6% higher than the average for England. The work that is available tends to be in traditionally low paid sectors with many jobs reliant on seasonal tourism. This places GDP per capita 50 out of 59 Unitary Authorities. Conversely employers who offer higher paid jobs in Health, Dentistry, Pharmacy, Education and other professional categories have great difficulty filling posts. Poor connectivity to the mainland being cited as a major reason putting potential applicants off.
The low wage economy and poor access to professional services is seriously impacting the next generation .One third of Isle of Wight children meet the government definition of living in poverty. Education attainment rates for young people are well below the national average. When we look at the barriers to economic growth we have to conclude that a major factor is cross Solent transport which is absolutely essential to corporate and personal success. Imports and exports, access to employment, health services, education, tourism, leisure, all rely upon the regular, affordable and reliable provision of cross Solent transport.
We hope this evidence convinces you that we should be included in The Islands Forum!
We look forward to hearing from you .