This is a copy of a letter I sent to Cllr Phil Jordan, the new Isle of Wight Council cabinet member for transport.
Image – Isle of Wight County Press
Karl Hunter – Shanklin
Dear Mr Jordan,
As the Island’s new councillor for transport and infrastructure I refer you to my open letters to Bob Seely MP published in the County Press regarding our ferry operators.
These letters voice a growing concern and dissatisfaction among many Islanders with the way Wightlink is operating our essential connections to the mainland.
Frankly, we are fed up with numerous failings and the never ending story of continually increasing ferry fares in the face of a continually diminishing timetable.
All the while we watch Wightlink make more and more profit from our pockets, which as my last later reveals is tens of millions, the overwhelming majority of which is used to pay huge dividends.
We continue to protest, write letters, complain and share our annoyance among ourselves, but what Islanders really need now is to see some action to try and stop the repetition of the same old Wightlink story.
Mr Seely’s response to my initial letter highlighted his awareness of Wightlink’s failings and acknowledged the depth of the problem, even going so far as to cite a list of initiatives he would like to see happen to tackle some of the issues.
This included a reduction in ferry fares for Islanders and a public stake in Wightlink.
However, Mr Seely was also clear that the power to enact these changes lies with the council and the Department for Transport.
Mr Seely stated in his reply: “Do I have power to make this happen? No, sorry. I could pretend that I do, but I don’t. The transport authority locally is the council.
“The council could make this happen. However, up until now, and for understandable reasons, it has been reluctant to do so. The other institution that has power here is the Department for Transport.”
With such limited options to leave the Island, whether Wightlink like it or not, it has taken on a public service, but it’s clear Wightlink’s current CEO does not see it that way.
And so I write to ask what is the new council’s view and stance on the Wightlink issue? Indeed, do you even consider there to be an issue?
If it is the case that you share a similar standpoint to that of our MP and many Islanders then can I ask, has the time now come for the council to undertake the task of submitting an application to the Department for Transport requesting a Public Service Obligation (PSO)?
If successful, a PSO could help mitigate the current social cost that restricts many Island families from accessing the mainland simply because they can’t afford the fares, which in the summer holidays and half-terms can often come to over £250.
It seems to me that public momentum on this issue is building.
Accordingly, if the council agrees and applies to the Department for Transport for a PSO would I be correct in assuming the application would have a greater chance of success if Islanders addressed a paragraph or two to you regarding their concerns and desire for better and cheaper transport links?
This letter was originally published in the Isle of Wight County Press.