Scrutiny meeting in brief - The Great IW Ferry Debate
ISLE OF WIGHT COUNTY PRESS 31st January, 2014
by Martin Neville
Many key questions around future timetable plans, pricing and ownership went unanswered or not asked at all. The committee was warned at the start of the meeting that operators could not discuss certain matters in an open forum, due to commercial sensitivity and competition law.
Wightlink operations director, John Burrows, revealed the £3.5 million cost of securing planning permission for terminal works at Lymington, with the legal challenge by the Lymington River Association still ongoing.
Red Falcon will be the first ferry in the Red Funnel fleet to receive an internal makeover this year. The company plans to upgrade the passenger lounges o fall its vehicle ferries.
Red Funnel is a strong supporter of the Southampton Master Plan, which would see the company relocate to a new terminal with better traffic flow and improved customer facilities.
Scrutiny chair Cllr Geoff Lumley said Wightlink had many good stories to tell. But he told company boss Russell Kew: “It seems to me you are not getting your message across. People don’t think Wightlink is a great company.”
Wightlink chief executive Russell Kew said the company operated fewer crossings than previous years.However, he said: “We cannot run ferries that no-one uses. There was a massive over supply in the market ten years ago but it wasn’t sustainable.”
Red Funnel announced the creation of a new ferry users’ forum. Chief executive Kevin George said it would ensure a regular open dialogue with customers.