LETTERS From Cllr David Pugh, Shanklin:
IN response to the attitudes and opinions attributed to me here last week, I would like to make my views on the current ferry debate abundantly clear.
Any reduction in frequency of sailings to and from the Island or, indeed, any degradation of service, by any operator, is unwelcome.
Regular and affordable cross-Solent travel is absolutely crucial to the Island’s economic and social wellbeing.
I have often made this view known to Wightlink chief executive Russell Kew.
I have asked him to reconsider the recent service reductions and I will continue to plead the case for a comprehensive timetable; a point I have made — and will repeatedly make — to Red Funnel also. The Island must be an accessible place to live, visit and do business with.
But I also consider that over enthusiastic tub thumping and chest beating is almost certainly futile and possibly counter productive.
We must accept the ferry companies are run by private businesses that face economic realities — foremost among which is the need to remain viable.
Your reader’s photograph of just a single car on board an evening sailing highlighted that the current timetable sometimes does not run even close to capacity.
Given some comments made recently, the phrase about 'empty vessels’ seems particularly resonant.
As an Islander, regular ferry user and a local community representative, I’m disinclined to join an anti-ferry bandwagon that, while gathering a head of steam nicely enough, is unlikely to reach any productive destination.
I also believe our collective interests will be damaged by an off-Island message that we are a difficult and unreasonably expensive place to reach.
Our approach is not about being 'nice’ to ferry companies; it is about being frank but realistic, and understanding what is achievable while not falsely raising expectations.
We need solutions based in the current realities. In particular, the IW Council wishes to see a local, Island-based stake in one or both of the main routes, should the opportunity arise. This is something we are beginning to explore.
We are setting up a group, intended to draw on local commercial experience, to consider options to respond positively to such an opportunity. More detail will follow in the new year.
Such an involvement would be in tune with the legitimate role, and limitations, of a local authority.