What the ferry firms said - The Great IW Ferry Debate
ISLE OF WIGHT COUNTY PRESS 31st January, 2014
by Martin Neville
Wightlink boss Russell Kew said it was committed to being part of Island life. He said Wightlink offered a year-round comprehensive timetable, including early-morning and late-night crossings, with more sailings between Fishbourne and Portsmouth than when it was under public ownership.
He said the firm offered more peak and off-peak crossings than its competitors and was often the only service running in bad weather. Against a triple-fold hike in fuel prices and rising pension costs, Mr Kew said average ticket prices had risen more slowly than inflation, while it had invested almost £70 million in new ferries and infrastructure. The Company said there was currently no need to recapitalise the business or repay any of it debt and it was meeting its interest payments comfortably.
Red Funnel said it was proud to have served the Island for over 150 years, carrying more than a third of all cross-Solent vehicle traffic. Chief executive Kevin Geroge said," We are acutely aware our services help underpin the Island’s economy and we provide a vital lifeline to residents."
Mr George said many of their 30,000 departures made a loss each year, but the firm understood the importance of running a comprehensive timetable.
He believed the current schedule provided a good balance between customer needs and the cost of operating the business. “We have to ensure the revenue of visitors to the Island in the summer helps offset the loss-making services,” he said. He said the company strived to offer affordable fares and had invested more than £20 million in services and supporting infrastructure since 2009. The company said it did not believe debt levels had, or would have, any bearing on timetables or prices.
Hovertravel said it offered the quickest link across The Solent.Managing director Neil Chapman said it had served the Island since 1965 and its headquarters were still based in Ryde. It had enjoyed steady growth, no debt and earnings which were invested back into the business.
The meeting heard the company was on track to introduce two new replacement hovercraft, with the first due to enter service towards the end of summer 2015. A second new craft is due to be in operation the following summer. Henry Game, chief executive of the Bland Group, which owns Hovertravel said it was committed to its key values. “It’s about ensuring the customer comes first,” he said. Mr Chapman added it was extremely happy with the work of Visit Isle of Wight and stressed the need to talk the I