Candidates standing for the Isle of Wight East constituency have been discussing what they would do to improve ferry services, if they were to be elected.

For many Islanders, concerns over reliability and the cost of cross-Solent operators are one of the biggest issues.

In 120 words, The County Press asked all five East candidates what they would do to tackle the issues, should they be selected as an MP.

Here's what they said...

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For Island Labour, Emily Brothers said: "Unacceptable, unreliable and unaffordable cross-Solent services under 14 years of Conservative mismanagement. Passengers experience inconsistent crossings and fares doubled inflation over the last decade.

"Wightlink is able to hold a dominant market position due to significant barriers for new competitors. Wight Gateway’s solar powered entrance is welcome but will be tough to float.

"Wightlink serves shareholder profits and runs up debt. Amidst the financial fog the Tories refuse to blow the ship’s horn by requiring an investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority.

"As Labour MP for Isle of Wight East, I will work with the Labour government, local council and community groups to improve reliability and fair fares, including regulation that ensures Public Service Obligations are met."

Michael Lilley, of the Isle of Wight Liberal Democrats, said: "If elected I would prioritise and seek legislation to bring ferry companies to account as follows:

  • "Government must intervene by a carefully constructed regulator created to address cross Solent ferries alone.
  • "The Government should consider at least partial public (majority) ownership of ferries to ensure that profits are not misdirected through a myriad of company structures.
  • "Government must act to prevent complex company structures in simple service delivery companies.  This includes legislation to prevent operating companies mitigating their operating profits through complex financial instruments
  • "Pursue an agreement between all the ferry operators and the NHS regarding travel of Island patients across the Solent for treatment that achieves synergy between operators on minimising costs and improvement of the travel experience."

For the Isle of Wight Green Party, Vix Lowthion, said: "The quality of our ferry service is at an all time low – unreliable, extortionate and infrequent. Just like the private water companies these businesses are run for corporate profit, not as a public service.

"Shiny new ferries and potential new companies will not fix this structural obstacle.

"My first priority would be to escalate a Competition and Markets Authority case with a push towards strict regulation of prices, and a Public Service Obligation for the companies to deliver a frequent, reliable service.

"Alongside this I would pursue a public ownership model for cross-Solent transport.

"The Island must have ferries which work for Island residents, families and businesses, not overseas investors. We need an MP who truly believes this.

Reform UK's Sarah Morris said: "Reform UK leader, Richard Tice, has confirmed to me that the Isle of Wight ferries would be included in their plan to purchase 50% of all critical infrastructure. Given we may be faced with a Labour government, I would push forward with my alternative plan.

"Competition is the best way to a fair market, and with the landing areas currently owned by just two operators, they can work as a single monopoly over cross Solent travel. 

"I would force the separation of the landing area businesses from the ferry businesses. This would allow competition into the market using the existing infrastructure.

"Regulations are all well and good, but with punishment for non-compliance virtually non-existent, they won’t work."

Meanwhile, Joe Robertson, for the Isle of Wight Conservatives, said: "Ferry prices are too high and services are too unreliable. When I was growing up it wasn’t this bad.

"Today, the operators seem to be running a budget airline type service where demand drives prices. This is not appropriate for a lifeline service relied upon by an island population.

"People will need to put political differences aside and work together to deal with ferries. I will work with residents, councillors, campaigners and the West Wight MP to persuade the Government to step in and regulate prices and timetables.

"I also support competition and I have been talking to one of the directors of the new proposed car service between Portsmouth and Ryde. I believe the plan has a real chance of success."

  • In Isle of Wight West, parliamentary candidates standing are Green Party's Cameron Palin; Ian Pickering, Reform UK candidate; Richard Quigley, of Island Labour; Conservative Bob Seely; Liberal Democrat's Nick Stuart.

Isle of Wight County Press: Isle of Wight West candidatesIsle of Wight West candidates (Image: Contributed)