Wightlink thinks it can get away with it

Friday, November 16, 2012


LETTERS From Peter Bonnell, Yarmouth:

FOR a long time now Wightlink has been preaching the need for austerity measures among its very hardworking and loyal workforce.

Russell Kew, Wightlink’s chief executive, said (CP, 9-11-12): "financial pressures left the company with no alternative but to take action to secure the future of its services", citing £3.1 million spent on the dispute with Lymington. The unfortunate truth is the Wightlink management bungled the commissioning of the three new vessels, leading to operational issues and a longer ferry crossing. With such a tale of doom and gloom, one would expect the annual accounts to be very depressing.

Far from it, the accounts for the year to March 31, 2011, show a very healthy pre-tax profit of £8.5 million (after £1 million of legal fees), admittedly down on the £10.3 million made in the previous year but nevertheless an extremely healthy 15 per cent profit on turnover.

The point I wish to make, as one of Mr Kew’s two per cent, who will be severely affected by the cancelling of the night service (I regularly use the 4.30am boat, and sometimes struggle to get the 9.05pm back), is that I am a reasonable person. If the issue here really is that Wightlink desperately needed to make these economies to stay afloat, then I would reluctantly accept its decision.

Unfortunately, its annual accounts demonstrate this cannot be the case as the company has net assets of some £115 million.

The real reason for these cuts is Wightlink wants to further increase its margins and thinks it can get away with cancelling the part of the service where it does not earn money.

Where does the IW Council stand on this decision? If it is felt this action is not in the Island’s transport interests, can anything be done either now, or at some future time, should the licence come up for scrutiny or should another potential operator come forward?

In the meantime, I will be investing in a warm sleeping bag for the back seat of my car should I experience the occasional mayhem on the M25 returning to catch the 9.05pm ferry.

• More letters on this topic in the Friday, November 16, County Press.

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