THE Isle of Wight Council leader has hit back at calls for the Cowes floating bridge to be scrapped — blaming the previous administration for ongoing problems with the vessel.

Cllr Dave Stewart has responded to comments made by East Cowes Cllr Karl Love, who has called for the floating bridge to be sent back and replaced with one that works, branding the vessel an 'an embarrassment and a failure.'

Read more: 'It's time to make a decision' — Councillor calls for floating bridge to be scrapped

Cllr Stewart said he disagreed with Cllr Love but admitted there were 'challenges' with the floating bridge.

"When I say to people it is good and reliable, I do believe it is good and reliable," he said.

"If people say to me, 'yes, but it breaks down,' I say, 'so does the Red Jet.'

"People need to understand we, as an administration, inherited the floating bridge the previous administration had ordered and — in my view — not kept a tight handle on, with lots of debate about the design we are dealing with legally.

"We are about to embark on some major roadworks though Newport. Now our goal is to make sure that the floating bridge is available so people can use it.

"I could sit here and say I would like the bridge to never break down, but it has and we have times were we need to fix it."

Between May and August, the floating bridge carried 199,735 foot passengers and 78,234 care, operating for 2240 hours.

However, It has been out of service since September 10 due to a mechanical issue with the west prow hinge.

"I think 199,000 people using it in four months isn't completely useless, as Cllr Love would say," said Cllr Stewart.

"He may not like it, and I know people feel it is frustrating. But there is more work planned and we will get to a place where I am satisfied it is not just good and reliable, but it is good and reliable pretty much most of the time.

"To Karl Love I say this — you can't send the bridge back Karl. We didn't order it, but we have got it, we have paid for it and now we have to make it run."

Read more: What went wrong? — Two years on, floating bridge saga could end up in court

Floating Bridge 6 cost £3.2 million and was launched in May, 2017.

A report published by the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership in November revealed that, due to the cost of fixing problems with the vessel, and providing replacement services, that cost had spiralled to more than £6.4 million.

At the time it was designed, the council was run by the Island Independents, led by Cllr Ian Stephens.

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