It has been announced that Red Funnel, one of the vital cross Solent ferry services is to be sold by current owners, InfraCapital. The news has led two leading Island politicians to voice concerns about the future ownership of the company. It was reported at the weekend that the Prudential’s investment fund arm, owners of the company for around nine years have placed Red Funnel on the market for more than £250m.
Andrew Turner, the Island’s MP expressed his concerns:
"I want the interests of all Islanders, businesses and our public services protected and indeed improved. In my view the sale of these vital transport links every few years has not served the Island well. New owners have loaded the business with debt, and whilst saving themselves tax, have reduced services and brought in higher fares. That cannot continue.
Urging current owners and future investors to recognise their duty towards their customers, he said:
"I want the new owners to publicly commit to further cut the cost to residents for essential travel, such as hospital visits and education. And also to work to improve transport connectivity with the mainland, particularly by increasing later services and taking greater account of service frequency concerns raised by businesses. This sale must not be seen as a new opportunity to take substantial profits off the Island."
Cllr. Dave Stewart, Leader of the Council also voiced his views about the proposed sale.
"The Island needs investment partners who take a long-term approach to public service assets. The Prime Minister herself has called for an end to short term investment attitudes so that improvements in infrastructure can be better resourced. Red Funnel is a profitable company, but also a lifeline service which should not be exploited again by further increasing the debt burden. I want to work with the new owners to secure greater transparency and partnership arrangements between the them and the Council as well as the wider community.
“I understand that the report from the Infrastructure Transport Taskforce, which has taken evidence from a wide range of individuals and organisations will be published shortly after the local Government elections in May. I’m very much looking forward to seeing what it says.”