A NEW floating bridge is one possibility being considered to help rescue the beleaguered service, the Isle of Wight Council's cabinet member for highways and transport has reiterated.

Cllr Phil Jordan hit back at former councillor Richard Hollis's letter to the County Press, saying he is trying "to re-write history with a misleading narrative surrounding the Conservatives' handling of the floating bridge debacle".

The IW Council cabinet is set to discuss the troubled chain ferry next week.

Cllr Hollis had pointed out the bridge "was conceived, designed, commissioned and built" by the previous ruling Independent group and said the Conservative administration had kept the vessel going and pursued a claim against the designers and builders.

Cllr Jordan hit back: "His administration did bring the vessel into service without adequate trials and tests, they did spend millions of pounds trying to fix the faults, they did try to convince the residents of this Island that the vessel was fit for purpose, and then prevaricated on legal process and on dealing with the problem head on."

He described the previous council's solution as "the most expensive sticking plaster this Island has probably ever seen" and added "we cannot afford a mismanaged money pit any longer".

Now, Cllr Jordan has laid out the current plans for the service, which involves a new investigation, stopping major spend, starting mediation, and engaging with experts.

He said: "The IW Council’s Alliance administration is absolutely committed to preventing unlimited amounts of money being spent on FB6, unlike the previous administration who did so for four years. 

"Over the past five months, we have been working towards interim solutions as well as a proper, longer-term, permanent resolution for a floating bridge including speaking with excellent

independent engineering experts to make sure everything is done correctly.  

"We are now able to make some headway towards proper solutions and have formed a pragmatic, clear and decisive action plan.

“The new Alliance administration has the consideration of a new floating bridge very much on the cards, but unfortunately it’s a slightly more complicated decision-making process because the £3.2 million Floating Bridge 6 was not funded solely by the council’s money, but by a multi-million, Government Local Growth Deal grant awarded by the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership. 

"Frustratingly, it’s not quite as simple as buying a new car to replace an old model.”

The Solent LEP asked the previous administration to commission an independent technical

report and government review on the issue, which is now being done. 

Cllr Jordan said: "It is a necessary and important step that officially will assess the floating bridge and demonstrate if it can ever provide the frequent and reliable crossings like the old Floating Bridge 5 could do even at 40-years old. 

"The completely independent report on the vessel will be undertaken in the timescales laid out and is set to be completed by the end of November 2021.

"The Alliance is stopping all major spend on Floating Bridge 6 other than for immediate breakdowns to maintain the service."

In March 2022 there is a statutory MCA five-year inspection of the vessel, which means it will be out of service for four to six weeks.

Cllr Jordan said despite claims by former council leader Dave Stewart that a mediation process was underway, it wasn't, but now is.

He said: "The previous administration repeatedly denied the public’s requests for information about the floating bridge, citing mediation and an on-going ‘legal case’ as the reason not to answer questions.

"The Alliance has immediately and decisively insisted a mediation process be undertaken before the end of November 2021. 

The matter will be discussed at the forthcoming IW Council cabinet meeting on October 14.

Cllr Jordan said: "We are extremely concerned with how unreliable the current floating bridge appears to be and how it is hurting local businesses and spending Islanders’ valuable council tax. 

"It’s been incredibly frustrating that the floating bridge is having continued problems and breakdowns and out of service periods since we took over in May.”