24th April 2020

The Government revealed today that it was providing ferry companies serving the Isle of Wight with “up to £10.5m” to subsidise the services they run during the coronavirus crisis.

Island Labour Chair, Julian Critchley, said: “Of course, we agree that the transport links to the island are an essential public service. The question is why the government only seems able to recognise this fact during a crisis. It doesn’t stop being a public service when there’s no national emergency. We are always reliant on cross-Solent transport for everyday life here.

If cross-Solent transport is now rightly recognised as a public service, then there are questions we need to consider. 

“Firstly, will the transport companies in receipt of this public money confirm that they won’t be paying any dividends or executive bonuses this year, as that would obviously be a transfer of money direct from the public to private individuals?”

“Secondly, if it’s so important that millions of pounds of public money must be used to keep it going during difficult times, then why would we return to a situation where the companies pocket millions of pounds of profit during good times?

“We currently have a situation where profit is privately retained, while losses are met by the public purse. That doesn’t resemble any kind of free market, and of course the reason for that is that cross-Solent transport is not, and never has been, a free market service. It’s a public service, and it should be provided as such in good times as well as bad.”

“There are many things which shouldn’t continue as before, after this national crisis. The situation with cross-Solent transport is a very important issue which needs to change, permanently.”