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Isle of Wight Ferry Services

Volume 567: debated on Thursday 12 September 2013

11. What assessment he has made of the (a) cost and (b) reduction in service of ferries between the Isle of Wight and the English mainland; and if he will make a statement. (900280)

My hon. Friend will remember that I visited the Isle of Wight earlier this year, as did my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. We are of course aware of the fares for the ferry services and of the level and frequency of service provided by the island’s three ferry operators. There has been no formal assessment. This is a competitive market, and it is for the ferry operators to decide the level of fares and services based on market conditions.

The island’s ferries provide lifeline services and the repeated cuts damage our quality of life. Wightlink has enormous debts, which are paid for out of the island’s economy. I plead with my hon. Friends to enter into dialogue to consider how public service obligations can be introduced so that we have the certainty to build our economy and create more jobs.

My hon. Friend will remember that I met him and a delegation from the island earlier in the year. I promised then to meet Wightlink, and have done so. There are more than 200 sailings to and from the island each day, so there is no apparent market failure. I hear my hon. Friend’s plea to put public service obligations in place and we will continue to keep them under review, but at the moment there is no case to do so.