Page last updated at 16:45 GMT, Friday, 27 February 2009

Inquiry into island ferry trading

Red Funnel courtesy of
The companies said they all welcomed the study

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) is to investigate competition between ferry services from the Isle of Wight to the Hampshire mainland.

Red Funnel and Wightlink provide vehicle and passenger ferry services, while Hovertravel provides a passenger-only service.

A complaint to the OFT signed by 8,000 people alleges high prices, unclear charging and declining service.

The companies all said they welcomed the study and would co-operate fully.

The OFT said the study would examine "the nature of competition between operators and potential barriers to entry".

Isle of Wight ferry services
Red Funnel:
Car ferry service: East Cowes to Southampton
Passenger fastcat: West Cowes to Southampton
Car ferry service: Fishbourne to Portsmouth
Car ferry service: Yarmouth and Lymington, Hampshire
Passenger fastcat: Ryde to Portsmouth
Passenger service: Ryde to Southsea in Portsmouth

"This study will focus on a local market where consumers are wholly dependent on a small number of suppliers and where price, quality and general service have a major impact," a spokesman said.

Red Funnel said in a statement: "Red Funnel welcomes the opportunity presented by this study to demonstrate that it offers an excellent value, high quality, high frequency ferry service to both Island residents and the leisure and tourism market that is so important to the island's economy."

It added that it hoped the study would be completed quickly so people could be confident the island was an "attractive holiday destination this summer in these difficult economic times".

Wightlink said: "Wightlink is more than prepared to cooperate with the OFT with its study into cross-Solent travel.

"We recognise how vital the ferry services are to people on the Isle of Wight and of course to all our local economies.

"This study will give us the opportunity to further demonstrate our commitment to the services we provide."

Hovertravel said it "welcomed the study. Naturally, we're quite happy to look at the books.

"We're more than happy to co-operate."

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