A GOVERNMENT minister has today (Tuesday) told an Isle of Wight delegation, led by MP Andrew Turner, that he is not in favour of regulating cross-Solent travel through legislation.
Transport minister Stephen Hammond, who is responsible for maritime affairs, said he instead favoured "soft touch" regulation — guiding the ferry firms over services and prices.
He told Isle of Wight Council representatives in the delegation that there was funding available for transport initiatives and urged them to investigate sources. He also promised to meet with Wightlink.
The delegation also included representatives of the Isle of Wight Trades Union Council (IW TUC) and the founder of the Solent Ferry Users’ Group (SFUG), Julia Bridgeman.
She said: "The minister was concerned about the lack of consultation from Wightlink over the introduction of its cuts in services which have had such a big effect on the Island.
"The meeting, at the Department of Transport in London, included representatives of the Island Trades Union Council and, despite it being quite short, I think we were able to put across all the points that have been made on the Island.
"I believe there is now some serious momentum behind our concerns about reduced timetabling, the security of the link, the cost of services and the effect on the Island’s economy."
Mr Turner said: "It was worthwhile meeting the minister. It is always powerful when ministers realise that political parties are prepared to put their differences aside and work together because an issue such as this is so important to the community."
On Thursday, next week, ferry companies, secretary of state for transport Patrick McLoughlin and Island politicians will meet to discuss cross-Solent travel.
IW TUC spokesman Steve Butler said they would take on board the government's position, but they would not let them bury the issue, which they would continue to fight.