AN ONLINE petition urging the government to step in and regulate ferry prices has been turned-down.

The petition, which so far has attracted 17,355 signatures, claims that 'inflated' ferry prices are hurting the economies of Islands around the UK including the Isle of Wight.

The petition states: "UK residents living in such places as the Isle of Wight are charged excessive amounts for commuting or travel to see family and friends. Likewise for tourists going the other way.

However, in response, the Department for Transport (DfT) says there is no evidence of market failure on the Island's ferries.

The DfT said: "Ferry companies in the UK operate in a competitive, commercial market, with the operators competing on price, quality, frequency and speed of their services. In locations such as the Isle of Wight there is a provision of frequent crossings, from a selection of locations, and at a range of prices.

"At present such provision does not indicate evidence of a market failure or other reasons that may justify government regulatory intervention. As such the Government has no plans to regulate ferry prices. However, in circumstances where a commercially provided ferry link is at risk, Government would consider options to maintain that link as a lifeline service."

The government's response also stated there were multiple operators providing up to approximately 250 sailings per day, and close to 100,000 scheduled sailings per year serving the Isle of Wight with over 8.5 million passengers carried in 2017.

The DfT goes on to say that the economic impact on the island and passengers using the ferry services has been considered on two occasions.

"Most recently the Isle of Wight Transport Infrastructure Task Force (TITF) was established in summer 2016 to receive information and make proposals on a wide range issues vital to the Island’s future. As part of this a report was produced.

"It noted that Isle of Wight GVA has been higher, and more consistent than, that of its mainland neighbours and is comparable with wider trends. The report also found that the island economy is changing and economic growth is being achieved with less cross-Solent travel."

"In 2009, the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) investigated ferry services to and from the Isle of Wight, in particular whether there was a lack of competition, and if prices were too high.

"The OFT decided not to refer the ferry companies to the then Competition Commission and concluded that there existed some features of the market that prevent, restrict or distort competition “but that there is limited evidence of actual consumer detriment”."

Updated 10am

Green party parliamentary candidate, Vix Lowthion said she was not surprised by the result: "It's no surprise whatsoever that our Conservative MP Bob Seely's government have swiftly rejected the call from 17,000 islanders to regulate the prices we are forced to pay for our ferry service.

"The Conservative Party believes that all transport services are best provided by commercial companies free of regulation - yet this policy has led to an effective monopoly here on the Isle of Wight. The statement from the government completely ignores the situation in Scotland which has a public body to regulate and subsidise routes for the communities they serve.

"Bob Seely will continue to fail to work for islanders on this issue because he and the Party he represents do not believe in regulation, subsidies and state intervention. How much longer must we put up with his transparent spin and bluster on this vital issue of greater accessibility for island businesses and travellers? We need a different MP who really knows what it's like for ordinary families to struggle to get across the Solent."