THE Cowes floating bridge is operating a reliable service insisted cabinet members tonight.

A heated debate took place at tonight’s Isle of Wight Council scrutiny meeting, with East Cowes ward councillor Karl Love calling for the resignation of cabinet member Ian Ward over the ‘systematic failures’ of the bridge.

But council leader Dave Stewart said: “The purchase and design were done under the watch of another councillor.

“Perhaps Cllr Love needs to point his conversation in their direction.”

Cllr Love said: “This problem affects 25 per cent of the Island. The conversation around the bridge has been a complete and total farce.

“It was totally predictable this bridge would break down during Cowes week.”

Cllr Love also criticised the time taken per crossing — 20 minutes each way.

Cabinet member for infrastructure and transport, Cllr Ward said the service had operated above 90 per cent since March this year.

He said: “This is a reliable craft as it stands. These figures show it is as good as the cross-Solent ferry operators, or any vehicle ferries.

“It can improve, and it will improve.

“I have watched the diligence of a crew who wait for people to come and vehicles to come. If they didn’t wait for them, they would be able to do four-five crossings an hour.

“We suffer from negativity. The only message that goes out is that ‘oh it’s out of service again’. All people hear is negativity, but otherwise it’s doing pretty well.”

Scrutiny chairman, Cllr Andrew Garratt, said the figures cited reflected the wider service of the floating bridge — including the launch service — and were not necessarily reflective of the bridge itself.

The number of vehicles using the bridge has declined this year.

Just 58,202 used the service in 2017/18, compared to 269,099 the previous year.

Cllr Garratt also called for a communication strategy to tackle negative social media posts around the bridge.

In response, Cllr Stewart said: “It would be good if members of this council, instead of sending out social media statements which are very emotional and critical, came and found out the facts. There is nothing worse than people firing out very emotional comments without the facts.”

Scrutiny councillors requested from the council a document detailing the issues with the bridge, actions being taken, time frames and dates for completion of work.

Councillors also requested a flow chart, detailing the communication strategy in the case of issues with the floating bridge.