What will the politicians do about the ferries?

This year there will be a general election, and the various parties will be asking for your votes. We asked all the candidates what their policy on improving the ferries would be. Here are their answers (printed in the order received).

All the candidates believe we need regulation of the ferries as an absolute minimum. Island Labour has started discussions with the shadow transport team. Reform UK is the only party to have a specific statement of policy from their party leader. Joe Robertson, for the Conservatives, wants to work on a cross-party basis at Westminster. The LibDems believe we need similar subsidies to Scotland.

The Green Party wants price caps and penalties, but in the longer term an answer to the ferries being run for greed and profit. MP, Bob Seely thinks a new policy is needed to enable him to work with the council. He seems to have forgotten that he was ever a councillor (indeed for seven months he was both a councillor and MP).

 

Island Labour and Richard Quigley (no candidates formally selected yet)

The best way is regulation then nationalisation. Regulation is far from perfect, but it is a first step to forcing the ferry companies to meet agreed operational standards. Island Labour MPs would work to make sure that Islanders are never again extorted and held captive by far-away investment funds that use our ferries as a cash cow. I’ve started the conversation with Louise Haigh, Shadow Transport Minister. What is clear is that, despite an 80-seat government majority, our beleaguered MP, Bob Seely, doesn’t have the ear of ministers. For seven years he has and clearly will do nothing.

 

Reform UK: Sarah Morris (IW East) and Ian Pickering (IW West)

Reform UK’s position on this is clear and comes directly from party leader, Richard Tice. We have two options open to us. The first is to include our ferries in the critical transport infrastructure that a Reform government plan to purchase 50 per cent of. In our case the 50 per cent share would be handed to the Isle of Wight Council, so we would directly benefit from any profits.
The second option is to impose a minimum service requirement along with either dictating a specific pricing structure or a profit margin that they have to work within. Both of these ideas are common sense and should have been implemented already.

 

Conservative: Joe Robertson (IW East)

The ferry service seems to get worse not better. Wightlink in particular seems to show a remarkable indifference to the disruption caused to the lifeline service it is supposed to provide. It seems to think that operating like an airline is satisfactory, and fails to properly understand it is serving a domestic population that has no other means of getting off the Island. It is plain the only way to achieve permanent improvement to services at reasonable prices is for the ferries to be regulated. If elected, I will work cross-party in Westminster to secure the law and regulation we need. It is crucial we take party politics out of the issue and work together with whoever forms the next government.

 

Liberal Democrats: Nick Stuart (IW West) & Michael Lilley (IW East)

The ferries are owned by large financial companies only interested in pumping Island money into their wallets. It is clear we need regulation of ferries – for fares, finances, rates of return, ferry renewals and co-ordination with other transport links; service obligation – to ensure the frequency and reliability of sailings and direct support – for a similar road transport equivalent as in Scotland.

Nick’s recent council motion, that passed unanimously, was to support an Island Act or similar legislation specifically including ferry regulation.

We would seek primary legislation to address our Island isolation. As that takes time we will seek rapid responses from any government to deal with the ferry problems to our businesses, residents, visitors and NHS patient travel.

 

Green Party: Vix Lowthian (IW East) & Cameron Palin (IW West)

We are committed to calling on the next government to introduce a public service obligation as well as a regulator. This would include a minimum service agreement, price caps and penalties for the company when they break such agreements. However, these measures are only short and medium term. Ultimately we feel, in the longer term, that the best way forward is to nationalise our ferries and take them out the hands of being run for profit and corporate greed.

 

 

Conservative: Bob Seely (IW West) – current MP

I fully understand and share the frustrations of Islanders when cross-Solent ferry services are cancelled. We need a new initiative on the ferries. I believe we need a public service obligation on cross-Solent providers.

The council is the transport authority, but has never had a policy or even a statement of intent on the ferries – that needs to change so that we can collectively work together to lobby for this. I am producing a joint statement of intent, which I hope the council will agree, and then I will ask councillors to prepare a motion on it so that we have an agreed position.

With the ferry companies seeking investment from the government for greener vessels and infrastructure, now is the time to act.