When competition arrived, islanders failed to use it

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I cannot think of a worse time to lose your job than at Christmas. But that’s what has happened to the staff of new ferry company Scoot Ferries.

With no warning, the plug was pulled on the fledgling service on Saturday morning. Passengers trying the service for the first time to go shopping at Gunwharf Quays were left stranded.

Wasn’t it very poor management to start a new ferry service to the Isle of Wight in November?

At Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight, the Harbour Commissioners had reportedly seized a ferry due to £10,000 being owed in harbour dues and fuel.

One thing this does show is how expensive it is to run a ferry service to the island.Reports show the company’s monthly bill for fuel and staff was £100,000. Then there was the running of the ships themselves and berthing charges.

Many berate the established ferry operators to the island. It seems to me the reputation of Wightlink is at an all-time low with islanders after reductions in services along with changes and increases to fares.

But it seems islanders are also suffering from apathy. When a new operator starts up to offer more competition, surely fed-up ‘caulkheads’ should have flocked to use it to bloody the nose of the establishment? This didn’t happen.

Then again, wasn’t it very poor management to start a new ferry service to the Isle of Wight in November?

Gale force winds regularly affected the service and that would have slowly eroded customer confidence.

Why not wait until May, build up some capital and promote the new service properly? Cowes is a fabulous place to visit and during Cowes Week in August it would have been a cash cow.

Competition is needed on services to the island to drive down prices and increase service quality and frequency. That was the government’s plan back in the 1980s.

Sadly, the competition that exists for operators in the English Channel and Irish Sea is not replicated on the Isle of Wight. Wightlink is owned by an investment company, not a shipping group like Stena Line or P&O.

But when competition does arrive, people must use it. Sadly for the staff of Scoot Ferries, they didn’t.