Government offers £1 million accessibility boost to ferries to the Isle of Wight

FERRY services from Portsmouth to the Isle of Wight could be in line for a £1m boost as the government looks to improve accessibility on the routes.

Saturday, 2nd October 2021, 3:26 pm
Updated Saturday, 2nd October 2021, 3:26 pm
The Wightlink ferry St Clare makes its way in rough seas from Portsmouth to the Isle of Wight on Saturday October 2, 2021. PA Photo. See PA story WEATHER Wet. Photo credit should read: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

The Department for Transport is welcoming bids for a £1m grant to boost accessibility for ferries, and those to the Isles of Scilly.

Operators can pitch projects that will help elderly and disabled people travel with confidence on the vital transport links connecting them to the mainland.

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This funding was initially announced as part of the Government’s National Disability Strategy and reinforces its pledge to improve the network for everyone – no matter the mode of transport.

Bids can either be for equipment, such as wheelchairs or accessible ticket machines, or building works like ramp levelling or the installation of Changing Places toilets. All ideas will be considered, so long as they are geared towards improving accessibility.

Accessibility minister Chris Heaton-Harris said: ‘These ports provide vital connections to the islands of the United Kingdom and it is imperative that they are accessible to all.

‘We look forward to hearing some innovative and life-changing ideas as we take another step towards creating a fully inclusive transport network.’

Ferries from the Isle of Wight, which go to Portsmouth, Southampton and Lymington, and those from the Isles of Scilly to the mainland provide vital connections for around 140,000 residents and are crucial for businesses and tourism.

There is currently no expectation this funding will be repeated, so the government is urging operators to come forward now to support this important initiative.

Bids received will be assessed on the number of passengers likely to benefit from the improvements and value for money. Applicants are asked to provide a supporting letter from local disability charities or individuals, as well as three quotes to ensure good value is being obtained.

The Government’s National Disability Strategy is already underway – with a nationwide audit of all train stations to drive up standards, urgent roll-out of tactile paving on platforms, grants to improve bus services and new laws to ensure proper support in taxis and private hire vehicles.

It follows the ‘It’s everyone’s journey’ campaign, launched in 2020 to champion equal access across all forms of public transport and encourage people to be more considerate and supportive of others when using the transport network.