An independent report or a complete whitewash?

By Carole Dennett Jun 6, 2024
Fran Collins (circled) at the Chamber of Shipping's parliamentary reception

An “independent investigation” into the perpetual chaos of their high-speed services appears to be being treated as a state secret by Red Funnel.

In March, Transport Minister, Lord Davies, let slip that the company had supposedly commissioned an independent investigation into the ongoing problems plaguing the Red Jet service. The Minister’s message was in response to East Cowes councillor, Karl Love, who had written to him about “shockingly poor” service levels due to constant cancellations of Red Jet services. While stating firmly that the government wouldn’t intervene in the cross-Solent ferry market, the Minister grudgingly admitted that the situation with the Red Jets was “not acceptable”. He added, “I am pleased, therefore, to see that the company has commissioned an independent investigation into these issues, using an external third party, which will be completed in the coming weeks.” He expected a meeting with the company to discuss the findings and any recommendations.

But don’t hold your breath for any transparency. It appears Red Funnel is in no hurry to divulge anything about this so-called independent report to ministers, or anyone else for that matter.

We were first alerted to the secrecy when we heard that Red Funnel’s CEO, Fran Collins, attended a Chamber of Shipping reception at the House of Commons, where she allegedly declared she wouldn’t be sharing the report with the government.

Naturally, we assumed Red Funnel would want to provide Islanders with details about the investigation, and put an end to any inaccurate rumours. Nearly three weeks ago, we emailed asking about Ms Collins’s comments at the swanky reception. We also asked who was conducting the investigation, what its terms of reference were, when it would be completed, and who would get to see it. We also wanted to know if rumours were true that Ms Collins herself set the terms of reference, and that the authors would report directly to her and Scotland-based operations director, Leanna Lakes – arguably the very people responsible for the Red Jet debacle in the first place. It seemed to us that such a report should have been commissioned by Stephen Ridgeway, chairman of the board of directors, to find out who was behind the problems.

After two follow-up emails, we’ve been met with deafening silence.

We know what ‘independent’ means; we’re sure our readers do – Red Funnel might need to invest in a dictionary.