Island Ferry Links
Edited version of the report of the meeting held on the 21st June 1950
By the Island Chamber of Commerce, at the Guildhall, Newport
Headlines: - Car ferry charges 74% more than pre-war.
Increase causing holiday cancellations.
A question in the House of Commons.
Excessive, shocking, crippling and unjust were a few of the words used to describe the recent almost 17% increase in car fare charges at the meeting on Wednesday. It was stated that the increase had occurred because cars had now been designated as ‘parcel traffic’ Hoteliers reported that there was considerable reduction in holiday bookings due in part to the increase in fares but also due to the lack of space on the ferries at weekend. One speaker said one of his guest had told him that he would not be coming next year as the money spent bring the car over would pay for his children’s accommodation on the mainland.
A lengthy debate then took place, and one suggestion put forward was that British Rail offer concessions mid week, this would required hoteliers to accept mid week bookings which currently they were not.
The meeting was informed that a member of the chamber would be contacting the chairman of British Rail and asking for a question to be tabled in the house.
A historical background to island ferry links was then presented to the meeting.
The matter first came to the notice of the Chamber in 1946 when a memorandum was submitted to the Ferries Committee of the Ministry of Transport. Members of that committee visited the island and met representatives of the County Council and Cowes U.D.C. and inspected the ferries. The committee recommendations were contained in a report issued in 1947, the report included issues raised by the Chamber but excluded reference to ferry charges. The committee stated that the island ferry services together with two other were outside their terms of reference, and considered that the route was a short sea passage. They also stated that the ‘Isle of Wight as an island did not have the same commercial, social and cultural connections with the mainland as did two sides of an estuary’. There was for instance little local traffic that just wished to pass from the island to Southampton and Portsmouth and return.
It is probably for that reason that the Ferries Committee specifically excluded the island ferries from their general recommendations—‘that all ferries should be treated as part or the highway, and where appropriate acquired compulsorily if necessary by the highway authority’.
Absolute dependent on sea transport.
The Chambers memorandum to the committee had stressed the island’s absolute dependence upon sea transport as a means of access to the rest of the country and that the island position was unique. Isle of Man and the Channel Island were sufficiently remote to function as independent units economically [and in other respects], whereas other island like Anglesey were connected by a bridge or had constant ferry service, the island had none of these advantages. In fact it was the only county in England and Wales that which did not have direct access to the U.K. road network, however it had to be conceded there was no other comparable ferry service in the country.
As a result of the Ferries Committee findings the Chamber had put before the Railway Executive in 1948 a proposal for a complete revision of rates for commercial users together with a recommendation for improving services and better handling of commercial traffic. In 1949 the Railway Executive agreed in principle that regular usage of the ferries should be recognised by lower rates and instituted a 10% rebate for commercial user of 50 or more journeys per year.
The committee’s report in dealing with the question of charges had suggested it would be inadvisable base an objection on comparison with other ferry services, what was currently wrong was the method on which the charges were made. Twenty five or so years ago car traffic to and from the island was limited to a tug-boat towing one or two barges per day, once or twice a day in each direction, the conditions and method at the time probably merited the charged levied. However this method of charging had been maintained with percentage increases added from time to time and did not take into consideration either operating cost, nor the large increase in traffic. The meeting heard that in view of the government attitude it would need action at the highest level to get the increases rescinded due to the British Transport Commission financial position they wanted every additional means of raising revenue. The question of additional services at Fishbourne were also tied up with the increase, it was difficult to quantify what increase in traffic would be generated if fares were reduced. The greatest demand for ferry spaces was on Saturday in the holiday season with an urgent demand for an early boat from the island and a later sailing from the mainland. It was then pointed out that a demand for more sailing in summer would inevitably mean that boats would be laid up in winter and charges would increase.
Scale of charges.
It was stated that fares for casual users, mainly holiday makers would most likely remain high, details of pre-war ferry charges and current costs to the island were then given based on obtaining a concessionary book of tickets based on a four for three offer for regular users; -
£1.7s.6d to £2.14.0 via Portsmouth and 18s.4d to £1.16s.0d. Via Lymington.
Commercial vehicles per ton including load, 17s.6d. to £1.5s.0d.via Portsmouth and 16s.0d to £1.2s.6d per Lymington.
The present charges were, cars from Portsmouth £2. 6s.10d to £4.14s.9d, and from Lymington £1.11s.8p to £3. 3s.8d.
Commercial vehicles per ton including load, via Portsmouth £1. 9s.10d to £2. 2s.0d, Lymington £1. 8. 5d to £2.0s.9d
The Chamber were urged to use any means to highlight the problem to the government as for years there had been a lot of talk but no action.
A member of the Sandown Hoteliers Association said his members were receiving a large number of cancellations of holiday bookings, this was not only due to high ferry costs, but since the end of petrol rationing people were unable to obtain ferry bookings. The chairman said that part of the trouble could be self imposed, due to the hotels inflexibility on mid week bookings It was also stated that people who could afford to run cars would bring money to the island. Another member of the Chamber said that 85% of the foodstuff his company distributed came from the mainland and any transport costs increases would have to be passed on to customers. In responding to the various complaints that had been made about the ferry company, a representative stated that it would not be possible to offer reduced fares and an improved service.
It was agreed that the matter should be taken up with the Minister of Transport and the British Rail Executive also a letter be sent to the local MP.
The meeting then went on to discuss other matters.
Source: IWCP 24 June 1950This page was last edited on: 26th January, 2022 17:50:28