'FERRIES are a weak link ... nobody seems to be able to direct them' — Isle of Wight Council's transport boss has hit back at the companies who are supposedly stopping a consistent link between the Island and the mainland.

At a meeting of the Solent Transport Joint Committee, Cllr Ian Ward, as representative for the Isle of Wight Council, asked transport strategist's Solent Transport to raise the issue of the Island's ferries with the Department for Transport.

While discussing a study on rail connectivity in the Solent area — which set out recommendations and a clear strategic case for improvements to the rail network in the South, but not on the Island — Cllr Ward, cabinet member for infrastructure and transport, said links to and from the Island were vital but the ferries let them down.

"We have one weak link between the Island and the mainland and that is the ferries."

He said: "We don’t go anywhere without transport links and we have a significant investment coming into the Island which is really good news.

"However, we have one weak link between the Island and the mainland and that is the ferries — they seem to be a body unto themselves. Nobody seems to be able to oversee them, direct them or do anything."

Richard Pemberton, principal transport planner at Solent Transport said it is a clear extension for the London to Portsmouth line to come to Ryde, so would keep it in mind.

Recently, trouble with Red Funnel has seen its website and online ticket services brought down by a 'malicious attack' and unexpected disruption to its timetable when boats were pulled from service due to mechanical issues.

Delays are common at certain times of the years as the numbers of passenger and visitors to the Island increase.

Connections, via foot or by vehicle, to the Island are provided by three main, private companies — Hovertravel, Red Funnel and Wightlink — who operate in the commercial market.

Despite many calls from Island residents for the government to step in to help regulate prices and services, only the Maritime and Coastguard Agency regulate the ferries to ensure safety and regulations are stuck to.

With the proposed rail improvements fixing problems in the transport links, Cllr Ward said he hoped people will use the services and the connection to the mainland.

The Island Line is set to undergo an update at the start of the new year, for three months, as new cars will replace the existing ones, a new passing loop at Brading will be built and platforms upgraded.

Another major £10 million regeneration has also recently been announced for the Ryde Transport Hub, as part of the transforming cities fund, which will see investment in Ryde Pier — further details on plans will be released in the near future.

Both Red Funnel and Wightlink declined to comment.