13 Jun 2017

Floating bridge review confirmed

Isle of Wight Council leader, Councillor Dave Stewart, has confirmed that a full review of all the events surrounding the purchase and provision of the new floating bridge will be undertaken by the council.

This follows a meeting with the chief executive of the council when they discussed what had taken place over recent weeks and how they would work together to address issues that have arisen.

In the meantime, the council has announced it is to suspend its charges for the use of the floating bridge and offer free travel for vehicles and passengers until Sunday 2 July. This is in recognition of the impact of the problems the introduction of the new floating bridge has had on the lives of its regular users and the local community. It will also give those people who would not normally consider using the facility an opportunity to use it and judge for themselves whether it is something they could factor into their daily travel plans and provide feedback to the council about the facility.

Throughout this period the council will be continuing to work to overcome the challenges it has faced in introducing the floating bridge to the River Medina crossing, especially in making the necessary adjustments to some items, such as the appropriate length of the chains, which have a significant impact on the operation of the vessel and which can only be evaluated whilst it is in use and at the varying tide heights.

The council, together with Island Roads, is also looking into the introduction of pedestrian railings along the pavement near the new waiting area on the East Cowes side of the river, in response to concerns raised by Councillor Karl Love, the East Cowes ward councillor, and the road layout in this same area.

Councillor Stewart said: “I am as frustrated as the people of West Cowes and East Cowes that a seamless introduction of the new floating bridge to the area has not been achieved. I am, therefore, pleased that we are able to offer free use of the floating bridge in recognition that its reintroduction has been a particularly challenging period for these local communities. I also hope that people from all parts of the Island will take time to make use of the floating bridge and support the community and local businesses in the area.

“I am particularly keen that we work with the local business associations and the town councils to promote their local offer over this period. I hope that they may also come together to create a range of promotions and offers to encourage people to stop and spend some time in their communities.”

The council has also confirmed that it will be undertaking a complete review of the approach taken to the design, build and introduction of the floating bridge. The purpose of the review will, in part, be to answer the many questions posed by the local community, but also to understand how the process may have been done differently and whether a better outcome could have been achieved when the new floating bridge went back into service.

Councillor Stewart said: “A significant amount of public money has been invested in the floating bridge, and it is important for us to be certain that it has been spent in the best possible way. I am especially keen to understand the design and build process and the levels of stakeholder involvement in its development. When I have that information, this review will be made available for the public and for the council’s scrutiny committee to question.

“That having been said, we do now have a new floating bridge that should give at least thirty years more connectivity between East and West Cowes, and we are committed to overcoming the current issues to ensure that this goal is achieved.

“The floating bridge is one of the many pressing challenges we have inherited as an incoming administration; I am determined that we own and resolve its problems as quickly as we can and that we are clear about, and act on, the outcomes of the review to ensure we are never in this place again.

“At the end of the day this new bridge was provided through investment of substantial public funds and it is important to ensure we achieve the best value for the money paid and as far as possible meet the expectations of our community.”

Cabinet member for infrastructure and transport, Councillor Ian Ward, said: “The floating bridge is effectively a boat that has not had the benefit of sea trials, conducted in private. Its trials have taken place in a very public way with the expectation that things would be perfect from the off. Sadly, this has not proven to be the case, with much more to be done than might have reasonably been expected.

“I also recognise that it was designed to meet the highways arrangements proposed as part of the now stalled Solent Gateways Project and, therefore, we must adapt what we have until such time as we have greater clarity about the future of that project. In the meantime I would like to recognise the hard work and efforts of all of the staff of the floating bridge to improve its operation as quickly as possible.”

Council chief executive, John Metcalfe, said: “This has been a frustrating and disappointing start to what should be a positive investment for the Island to help our plans to grow the Island Economy. Staff have been working very hard to addresses the issues that have arisen and will continue to do so until the problems have been satisfactorily resolved.”

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The Cowes floating bridge
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Factfile
  • The council has also announced it is to suspend its charges for the use of the floating bridge and offer free travel for vehicles and passengers until Sunday 2 July.
 
Isle of Wight, UK