IN HIS monthly column for the County Press, Isle of Wight MP Bob Seely tackles Islanders' dissatisfaction with the ferry companies.

Cross-Solent travel continues to be an issue on which I will campaign, for the benefit of Islanders.

We have seen some disruption during the winter months, some of which can be attributed to bad weather. We have had a particularly bad run lately with a spell of successive storms.

Some of the delays and cancellations, however, have been for other reasons which I know many of you, myself included, have found frustrating.

Like most Islanders, I accept disruption during spells of bad weather. However, I find it bizarre ferry firms, considering their profits, can’t factor in staff sickness in the winter periods.

I made this point directly to the chief executive of Wightlink, Keith Greenfield, last month. He was able to provide some reassurance that steps are being taken to address this. I will continue to apply pressure.

To be fair to the firms, they are improving their environmental audit and the quality of passenger experience. That’s in part due to the Island’s Transport Infrastructure Board, which is working with them to agree improvements. The firms also understand the need for good relations with the Island.

However, there are additional short-term changes I would like to see implemented fairly quickly such a reduction in ferry fares for journeys that start on the Island, new late-night services to ensure Islanders are not stuck on the mainland due to late running of trains, congestion on the roads or bad weather, as well as the ongoing work to ensure that fewer ferries will be cancelled due to staff shortages or staff sickness.

I would like to promise you that these things will happen. However, I can only encourage cross-Solent operators to make these changes, I am not able to enforce them.

Longer term, I would like to see solutions which would effect real change. My preferred option would be to for the IW Council to buyout 51 per cent of a cross-Solent ferry company and to run the company on a franchise model.

There is little likelihood of that happening at the moment.

However, I will be seeing the new minister responsible for ferries at the Department for Transport to ensure that the importance of reliable, affordable and accessible services remains firmly on the government’s radar.