Page last updated at 12:15 GMT, Friday, 12 June 2009 13:15 UK

Ferry competition study concluded

Red Funnel courtesy of freefoto.com
The companies had said they all welcomed the study

Ferry services from the Isle of Wight to the mainland will not be referred to the Competition Commission, the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has said.

The OFT carried out a competition study into their services following a complaint signed by 8,000 people.

Red Funnel and Wightlink offer vehicle and passenger services and Hovertravel provides a passenger-only service.

The OFT found "limited evidence" of problems interventions could address. It has instead begun a consultation.

People had complained about high prices, unclear charging and declining service.

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

The study found services were frequent, comprehensive and generally reliable.

The OFT said it made it "disproportionate" to refer the Solent ferry market to the Competition Commission for further investigation.

But it said: "Nonetheless, the level of complaints received by the study shows there is room for improvement in customer satisfaction."

The OFT has proposed operators "publish clear, consistent information which makes it easier for ferry users to track prices and service quality".

It said prices had risen at about the same rate as the Retail Price Index (RPI) in recent years.

However, people who book in advance pay less than people who book on the day for car crossings, which "may explain the perception of price increases", the OFT said.

It said there were barriers for new competitors, such as limited room on the island for berthing facilities, but these were not caused by the ferry operators.

John Fingleton, OFT chief executive, said: "Isle of Wight ferries provide an essential service for local residents and visitors to the island.

"Although we found the service generally reliable, we believe there are real issues around customer satisfaction which the ferry operators have responsibility to address."



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SEE ALSO
Inquiry into island ferry trading
27 Feb 09 |  Hampshire

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