Competition on the island route must be a good thing

COMMENT: Guildhall Walk has improved, but it’s still far from perfect

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You may not have seen it yet, but Portsmouth has a new ferry service to the Isle of Wight.

I’m very intrigued by this service. Not just because I have an interest in the ferry industry, but being a former islander I use the ferry services a lot.

Scoot Ferries operates two cool-looking 40-seater catamarans on a new service from Portsmouth to West Cowes.

But will it work? Red Funnel tried this route back in the 1990s using a hydrofoil and then ran to Gosport a few years later with a catamaran.

Wightlink has also tried to open new services to the island. A Ryde Pier to Southampton service failed to take off 10 years ago.

You could say people don’t like change. Portsmouth and Ryde have been connected by a regular ferry service since 1796 and West Cowes and Southampton since 1820. What chance has this new lot got?

Well, for a start they run earlier and later than the established routes. Being smaller ships, it’s hoped that passengers and crew will become familiar and friendly with each other.

The boats themselves are not your average, boring ferry. They share their design with offshore supply catamarans for wind farms.

You’d normally find these type of craft in the North Sea.

On board, everyone gets their own suspension seat, similar to what an airline pilot would expect.

There does seem a real determination to make this route a success. But with the craft landing at Broad Street, it’s not exactly convenient.

Maybe it was too expensive to get into Gunwharf Quays? At least there’s a free bus though.

You have to admire Scoot Ferries’ bravery. I reckon that any competition for the established companies has got to be a good thing.

All Isle of Wight services are in the hands of private companies, who can charge what they want and run when they want.

Only stiff competition will drive down prices and improve services.

That’s why I hope the new route succeeds.