Bid for ‘better ferries’ launch

By Martin Neville

Friday, January 17, 2014


Bid for ‘better ferries’ launch

A campaign has been launched to create a community interest company that could takeover Wightlink. Picture by Robin Crossley.

A MAJOR campaign backed by the Isle of Wight’s MP has been launched today (Friday) to promote plans to move Wightlink into the ownership of a community interest company (CIC).

The Isle of Wight Better Ferry Campaign, led by a group of Isle of Wight businessmen and supported by MP Andrew Turner, wants to bring about cheaper and more flexible ferry services, including critical early-morning and late-night crossings, for residents and businesses.

Plans to start the CIC were exclusively revealed by the County Press last month.

The group — which has launched a website for people to register their support — includes Patrick Seely, a senior partner in a company offering global mergers and acquisitions advice and a member of the well-known Island Seely family, John Buckland, former chief executive of Liz Earle, Nick Finney, a specialist in port legislation, and Andrew Palmer, owner of the Priory Bay Hotel.

They want to negotiate with Wightlink’s owners, Macquarie European Infrastructure Fund (MEIF), and its banks, to tackle its £195 million debt burden and recapitalise the company in the ownership of a new CIC — a limited company operating for the benefit of the community.

Mr Seely said: "It has been clear to me and the Island Community for some years that the price paid for Wightlink by Macquarie was far too high. 

"The interest payments would ultimately be paid for by Island residents and all those people wanting to spend time on the Island. It is time to deal with this matter so that the situation does not get even worse. 

"This proposal tries to offer something to all the parties involved, leading to a true partnership of interests between the Island community, the shareholders and the employees.

"If we are successful, the Island  will have a proper stake in its connectivity with the mainland which the community will largely control.  I hope that everyone joins us and supports this important initiative."

Isle of Wight MP Andrew Turner said: "We must demonstrate that we have the support of the Island community to encourage Wightlink’s owners to start talking to us; that is why we need Islanders to sign up to show they think this is a good idea.  

"The team that has come together is very high calibre and we know that this can be done.  In 2009 Red Funnel renegotiated down over £40m of its debt and it is in a much stronger position today as a result of that. 

"In 2011 Macquarie gave away control of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company — the monopoly provider of ferry services to the Isle of Man — to a Spanish bank. 

"We don’t want that to happen to Wightlink.  This doesn’t rule out going back to the Office of Fair Trading again; they have indicated that they would be willing to look again at the issue, but this is potentially a much better outcome for the Island. 

"It’s never easy to take on big money, but this is so important to the Island’s future that we really must put up a fight.  I urge Islanders to support us."

A Wightlink spokesperson said yesterday (Thursday): "Anyone, whether a private individual, commercial organisation, or community interest company, who wishes to acquire any business, should contact its shareholder(s).

"It is unusual to seek to conduct such business via the local media."

For more on this story, please see the Isle of Wight County Press today, Friday, January 17.



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Displaying the last 10 of 49 comments - Show All Comments

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by T Rollingsworth

20th January 2014, at 09:13:40

Peter, it may interest you to know that WL charge a £10 (it was last year anyway) surcharge for last-min (same day) bookings as an admin charge to avoid large queues and unpredicable loads.

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by Michael Long

19th January 2014, at 12:03:24

Am I missing something here? If someone takes over Wightlink, how will the debt disappear? Unless someone has sufficient cash languishing in a poorly paying deposit account, surely they will have to borrow money to uy the company from its current owners. This will create another debt, on which the lender will presumably want interest, which will have to come from the operating profits of the company. So what changes? I also fail to see how a new owner can operate more services and reduce fares and still balance the books.

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by Peter Humber

19th January 2014, at 10:02:19

Do you know what, let's stop trying to talk to these idiot ferry companies, Red Funnel cancelled a 9am this morning, so we rush to Wightlink to try their route as we needed to be at a Christening in Southampton, (as my fiancee was to be a god parent), at 11.15, only to find that although Wightlink was £ 59.00 instead of RF's £ 32.00, the counter staff did nothing to help us get the 9am ferry to Portsmouth. Going on a later boat with either company would have meant we didn't get to the Christening on time. - Family day out cancelled.
It is so time to find an NEW alternative way to cross the Solent, we are held prisoner by these companies!! Never in my 44 years have I ever experienced shoddy service like these two today!!!
Enough is Enough!!

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by Jack Woodford

18th January 2014, at 22:35:24

Hey dudes, I sit here (after a few pints of Guinness,) actually very proud of the little online community of which I am a humble new member.
This Better Ferry PR campaign was launched with the expectation peeps like us would jump aboard a bandwagon that, one suspects, relied more on momentum than logic.
The scepticism we see here sends out a great message to those that would seek to manipulate us - we are free thinkers, capable of forming our own views and making our own decisions. If you want our support, come to us with facts and substance, not appeals to what you think are our preconceptions.
And, I'll even go as far to praise the current IWC Indy administration who have had the sense not to nail their colours to the mast.
I'd urge the establishment figures of the Better Ferry Campaign to, in future, seek the views of ordinarily folk they purport to represent before embarking on campaigns that smack more of self interest than altruism.
Keep safe, dudes.

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by Steve Smith

18th January 2014, at 22:33:50

The Hindhead tunnel is actually only 1.1miles underground and cost £369 million so our link will be at least 5 times that therefore cost will be over five times i.e in excess of £2 billion probably much more as it will be underwater and supporting much more weight. As I have said many times "It is a non-starter"

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by Andrew Offord

18th January 2014, at 21:45:34

Ive been sitting here reading all these coments.It makes me wonder how many people voted for their friend Maggie in the '80's,its because of her,private companies,like Macquaries,are milking the country dry.
All they are intrested in,is making big fat profits from us little people.
Instead of people writting on here moaning about,do something postive,become a councilor or even an MP, become pro active,that way you can cause real change.
Remember the rot started in 1985,so it will be a very long time before it gets fixed.
My two cent worth............

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by Peter Angell

18th January 2014, at 19:37:03

I'm glad I'm not the only one who hasn't missed the irony that the backers of this better ferries campaign run some of the most expensive accommodation on the island for visitors not to mention that bloke who's made his fortune flogging us over-priced soups or the head teacher charging around three times more than a Wightlink annual ticket for education at his private school who now wants to lecture ferries on value for money!

I am amazed these people who hold respectable positions are suckered into appearing on that video given how factually inaccurate it is. The head teacher claims he struggles to recruit enough high calibre teachers - an academic season ticket on Wightlink is £733, a rail season ticket for Portsmouth - Southampton is £2,140. Or the GP claiming the cost of ferry fares causes needless stress to patents? Ferries off reduced or even free travel to those going to hospital!

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by Mike Crowe

18th January 2014, at 18:48:40

Many thanks William, very interesting points.

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by William Gough

18th January 2014, at 16:51:08

Mike Crowe, the missing part of post was going to say. Secondly, where on the Island would the "Bridge" make landfall? I am sure that a damn lot of NIMBY'SM would surface. Also most people that advocate a "Bridge" only seem concerned with getting OFF the Island, what about all the traffic that will come TO the Island and a damn lot of those people making the most noise are "Overners" why move to an ISLAND and then **** about getting off it??????? P.S. i am not anti "overner" just wondering!!!

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by Don Prescott

18th January 2014, at 11:56:48

Very interesting letter about this and the characters involved on page 38 of yesterdays CP, which certainly reinforces what Dave Dawson said.

Interesting also that the "makers" of the youtube vid linked by Jack W, have threatened the person who put it up.

What is astonishing is that whilst they complain about ferry prices, the prices for THEIR products are hardly cheap.

Our MP obviously has not learned from his experiences with Ecoisland, but I have yet to see his name on the "petition", which has just made 300 signatures.
Not exactly falling over to sign are they?

Any views or opinions presented in the comments above are solely those of the author and do not represent those of the Isle of Wight County Press.

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