From Carl J. Feeney, Pro-Link (chair), Newport:

In LESS than one week, more than 10,000 people have put their signatures to an online petition, asking for government intervention to cease the exploitation of Island residents by privately owned ferry companies.

The petition initiator is from the IW…and mentions this Island specifically.

Two days after the petition began, MP Bob Seely appeared to ‘jump on the bandwagon’, hurriedly sending and publishing a letter to the DfT asking that Wightlink be regulated or nationalised.

Does this mean after 18 months of tenure, the MP is actually going to back up his campaign manifesto claim, that he will facilitate government control over the two oppressors of Islander freedom and economic success?

Seely’s opportunistic DfT letter is appearing to lay the foundations to nationalise one ferry company. However, all three ferry companies would have to be nationalised. If one company was nationalised and offered cheaper fares because of government intervention, the others would take legal action against the government over unfair competition.

Wightlink and Red Funnel are worth over £300 million each. Shareholders will ask for more, this will not be a distressed sale — quite the reverse.

The complete purchase of all three companies will exceed £1 billion by the time legal and periphery fees are taken care of.

All three companies will fight together, affording and hiring the best legal representation. The hypothetical transition could take decades.

So what happens if this was possible... what do nationalised ferry companies offer?

The answer is losses. The ferry companies will still endure the massive overheads of a 19th century business model, with lessening reinvestment in depreciating assets.

They will continue to offer timetable schedule restrictions and booking headaches, with frequent loss of service due to mechanical breakdowns, poor weather, staff sickness, harbour movements etc.

With lower fares more people may use them, but that has consequences. At present, demand-driven fares dictate who can use the limited space on each ferry.

If you pay more, you can hopefully get the Friday and Saturday crossings at short notice. If prices come down you’ll need to book months ahead to get a day or hour you wish.

This will be compounded by a rising Island population. Island businesses which need Solent crossings will perish.

How will £1 billion of nationalisation assist those who endure time-consuming ferry travel logistics. Can the MP answer that?

Conservative governments do not nationalise privately run, profitable companies, the MP knows it.

Once the alleged nationalisation bid fails (it will, of course) the next compromise will be a request for government subsidies.

These subsidies will be for perpetuity, costing the country billions in the long run, with no real advantage to the Island economy but a huge advantage to shareholders.

While this process of failed nationalisation continues for years, the status quo of each ferry company continues, while delaying a study into a fixed link further.

This week’s petition has shown the strength of feeling regarding the frustration and oppression that islanders and visitors alike, endure when trying to cross The Solent.

Signing it is extremely important in order to have your feelings lodged.

However, regulating or nationalising the ferry companies is not going to happen... it’s not possible.

The last MP did actually try courageously for over a decade but failed, while unfortunately wasting precious time that could have been used to bring about the only solution. That solution is a fixed link...more specifically the Solent Freedom Tunnel that will introduce regulated competition to the market.