At last – a major party starts to take cross-Solent ferries seriously

Keir Starmer

Following rocketing prices and declining frequency and reliability of cross-Solent ferries, for the first time the leader of one of the two main national party has made an official statement on Isle of Wight ferry services.

Labour leader Keir Starmer said on Monday: “Labour is committed to finding a solution to the issues with Wightlink and Red Funnel, and I am baffled why this hasn’t been tackled before. Labour would ask the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to look at the situation and whether intervention is needed.

“The CMA is the body that can take action if a market isn’t operating as it should.”

The Labour Party’s commitment will be welcome news to long-suffering travellers who disagree with the Conservative view that everything is fine. In March, Transport Minister, Lord Gower, confirmed in a letter to Cllr Karl Love that the Conservative government will not act because “The Solent ferry market is functional, as it offers a range of services for islanders, with multiple operators providing commercially viable routes.”

Keir Starmer’s intervention comes after Labour’s IW West candidate, Richard Quigley, met Shadow Transport Secretary Louise Haigh at the Labour Party conference and discussed how to find a solution to the current state of ferry operations.

“Louise immediately understood the problems and gave me access to her team to work on the issue. Very little has been done since 2009 when former MP, Andrew Turner asked the Office of Fair Trading to look at our ferry market,” explained Richard. “Things are much worse now.”

“We all know it’s not an easy or overnight solution, but this is the first time a leader of one of the main parties has acknowledged just how big a problem it is. It’s become a barrier to opportunity for work, education and family visits. You can’t even see the end of a show as you have to hot-foot it back for the last boat. Labour ‘gets’ how unfair this is on Islanders.

“There is more work to do as we need regulation of fares and timetables, but with a Labour government, Islanders have a clear commitment to action.”