A packed public meeting in January called by the Isle of Wight Trade Union Council to discuss Wightlink Ferries’ reduction in service from the Isle of Wight to the mainland attracted a cross-section of island residents who use the ferry regularly. They included trade unionists, business people, road hauliers and people who travel to work.
The ferry (part of British Rail before everything was privatised) is a lifeline for the island, carrying goods necessary for the survival of all islanders. But it was noticeable that although the island’s MP was in attendance, only one local councillor bothered to turn up.
Many people related the difficulties they are now encountering with the revised timetable. One Wightlink worker has had to buy a camper van: he can’t clock on at Lymington to start his shift because there is no ferry to take him from Yarmouth to Lymington, and he is not alone in this.
A railway worker, travelling to Portsmouth for his work, has been banned from using Wightlink for twelve months, for complaining about the cuts in the service in a letter to Wightlink.
Wightlink, owned by Australian company Macquarie Bank, was said to have made a profit of £8.5 million, but still claimed to be making a loss. That “loss” can be accounted for by the inter-company loans, charging itself 17 per cent interest.
A number of speakers called for the ferry to be taken back into public ownership as the only certain way of maintaining the service. The trades council now plans to talk to ministers and the island’s MP with a view to reinstating the service, using subsidies – or taking it back into public ownership. ■