SOLENT commuters and interested parties attended the first of two public meetings last night (Thursday), looking at the impact of cuts and high ferry fares.
The Cross Solent Ferries Scrutiny Task and Finish Group was established by the Isle of Wight Council’s overview and scrutiny panel in the wake of recent Wightlink cuts to late night and early morning sailings, as changes to ferry fares generally.
The committee, co-chaired by Cllrs Geoff Lumley and Paul Fuller, heard evidence from Julia Bridgeman, of the Yarmouth Ferry Users Group and Yvonne Williams, of the Hovertravel users group, who highlighted their experiences, concerns and hopes for the future.
Isle of Wight MP Andrew Turner answered committee questions and submitted a comprehensive dossier, documenting his own efforts to have cross-Solent travel investigated by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT).
Presentations were also given by Isle of Wight Chamber of Commerce chief executive Kevin Smith, Isle of Wight Federation of Small Businesses chair Cllr Julia Jones-Evans, David Ballard of the Island Business Forum, and Steve Porter of the Island’s largest independent freight carrier Steve Porter Transport.
The two-hour meeting closed with representations from Alec Webb from the Isle of Wight Youth Council and Steve Butler from the Isle of Wight Association of Trades Councils, who repeated calls for a blanket £25 return fare for cars belonging to Island residents.
Bosses from the three cross-Solent companies — Wightlink, Red Funnel and Hovertravel — are set to attend the committee on Thursday, January 23 at 6pm, to be quizzed by councillors.
The public sessions have been arranged following a full council motion by Cllr Jonathan Bacon who expressed concern about the impact of service cuts and high ferry fares.
For more on this story, please see the Isle of Wight County Press on Friday, December 13.