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Isle of Wight Council takes preliminary steps for legal action over ‘floating bridge’ ferry

Isle of Wight Council has taken pre-action legal steps with suppliers of the island’s ‘floating bridge’ ferry after it spent most of the summer out of action.

A council report said the ferry, which connects Cowes and East Cowes, was taken out of service in July for delayed scheduled maintenance, and a major fault with the hydraulic system was identified while undergoing tests prior to returning the vessel to service. It has remained out of use since.

The report by Justin Thorne, strategic manager - legal services, said the shipbuilders and their approved contractors had advised the vessel should not return to service as originally planned as this risked further damage.

It said: “The council, having received legal advice, consider that a number of the performance issues that the floating bridge has suffered are as a result of the failure of the two companies contracted to design and build the floating bridge to comply with the council’s requirements as set out in its contracts with the companies.”

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Isle of Wight would follow the pre-action procedures in the contracts to seek “appropriate redress” for any contractual failings.

The council had engaged with the builder and designer concerned - who were not named - but said: “If the required pre action discussions do not conclude with a satisfactorily remedy for the losses suffered by the council, then it will be open to the council to issue court proceedings to seek remedy including financial loss”.

The floating bridge is a chain ferry, examples of which have operated across the Medina at Cowes since 1859. Boats are fixed to chains to make the crossing.

Isle of Wight’s troubles with the ferry have sparked a public petition with 2,200 signatures on the website.

This said: “The chain ferry has become a significant burden for both local businesses and island council tax payers.

“The decisions and purchase strategies need to be disclosed to the general public highlighting the poor project leadership and strategic planning of a service that has failed to provide.”

Mark Smulian

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