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TonyMWeaver

Gosport Ferry In Trouble

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It was reported yesterday, and on the BBC today that the Gosport Ferry is in financial difficulties.

Gosport MP Caroline Dinenage is trying to secure funding which is urgently needed, without it, the company could cease within the next few weeks.

For the last 4 weeks, the ferry company has been operating a 15 minute service with the last ferry at 23:00. The late night ferry (run by another company), stopped service on March 23rd.

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Wasn’t the solution to suspend operations 4 weeks ago and furlough the staff?

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They never suspended the service, they only reduced it. If they suspended it, you can bet there would have been complaints.

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Well, either the service is viable or it is not.  It should have been possible to arrive at a frequency of service that was viable, and if not then the volume of complaints cannot have been significant.

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1 minute ago, Gareth said:

Well, either the service is viable or it is not.  It should have been possible to arrive at a frequency of service that was viable, and if not then the volume of complaints cannot have been significant.

Would it though? if you make the service, say hourly, you still haved the crew onboard and being paid for the entire time?

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Posted (edited)

Similar situation to the chain ferry hat crosses Poole Harbour at Sandbanks.  She has been taken off her chains and is now docked in Poole.  We have no idea what is happening to her.  They are citing Government funding, or lack of it as well.  So narked...

Sandbanks Ferry closes amid 'lack of government support' https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-dorset-52351788

 

Edited by Khaines

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Don’t get it.  Why are people needing to use it?  Morning and evening to and from work I can see, but why is there any need to run a service apart from in those times?  People are supposed to be at home.

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If the ships aren't running, they are losing money. The fixed and capital costs for most ferry operators are such that the bills still need to be paid and if there's no income they will quite soon go bust. Like most businesses they will need government support - and if they provide a needed service they'll be propped up.

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52 minutes ago, Gareth said:

Well, either the service is viable or it is not.  It should have been possible to arrive at a frequency of service that was viable, and if not then the volume of complaints cannot have been significant.

How can a business, which has based its business plan and viability on Plan A, which has many daily crossings, lots of staff and all the other costs involved in promoting and maintaining a service, even dream of being "viable" when slashed to the bone? Pretty basic. Airlines have planes grounded, staff furloughed and are reducing costs as much as possible, but are haemorrhaging cash.

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I think that’s my point, Colin.  It isn’t.  So why have they been continuing to trade?  Seems to me like that was asking for trouble.

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32 minutes ago, Gareth said:

I think that’s my point, Colin.  It isn’t.  So why have they been continuing to trade?  Seems to me like that was asking for trouble.

So? Are you simply suggesting that the company was always loss making? What else could they do?

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Posted (edited)

Amongst other items is the incredibly expensive financial commitment to Gosport BC for the pontoon, £65,000 a quarter (the average fare yield of 40,000 pax) plus interest payments on the long lease at 4.75%. If I read the accounts aright the minimum  lease payments, interest and annual repayment of principal under the agreement which runs until 2061 comes to £0.5m a year. It doesn't take long for such debt to begin to impact when there is no income. With one of the major activities of the parent company being fine art wharehousing one begins to see that pressure might not just be on the ferry company. Incidentally the parent took a dividend greater than the operating profit in the last publsihed accounts. (Profit £289k Dividend £305k)

Incidentally in normal circumstances they were in 2019 carrying the best part of 400,000 pax a year less than 2015 and the annual decline averaged 3%. Doesn't seem much does it but in ten years you've lost the best part of a quarter of your customers.

 

Edited by Millsy
Correction of figures
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9 hours ago, colin said:

So? Are you simply suggesting that the company was always loss making? What else could they do?

Not at all.  Merely that operating any kind of service (beyond one or two trips each way each morning and evening) at the moment cannot be anything but loss-making.

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Interview on the radio, Gosport Ferry Manager said that if financial help doesn't materialise in the next quarter, they will have limited options. Reduce the service even more, or stop the service altogether until the lock down is lifted.

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Posted (edited)

It appears that the Gosport Ferry have had their government support turned down by Grant Shapps (Secretary of State for Transport) after today's meeting with Gosport MP Caroline Dinenage. The Tweet posted by the Gosport Ferry this evening has since been deleted.

Without this funding, the ferry service is now severely limited. Since the lockdown, passenger numbers have dropped by nearly 95%. and one option being suggested at the moment is to reduce the service hours further.

Gosport Ferry is still owned by Falkland Island Holdings, I don't know what their next move will be. I'll hopefully know more in the next couple of days.

Hythe Ferry temporarily stopped last week, maybe the Gosport Ferry will be next.

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Edited by TonyMWeaver

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Posted (edited)

It seems that Caroline Dinenage's effort to secure funding for the Gosport Ferry failed this week. Now, Stephen Morgan (Labour MP - Portsmouth South) will take action for funding.

Stephen Morgan MP has today written to the Transport Secretary urging immediate government measures to support Gosport Ferry. The action follows reports that the business runs the risk of ruin due to the financial implications of Covid-19.

Mr Morgan has called on government to address the fact that their transport funding package, announced earlier this week, does not offer any tangible support to Gosport Ferry, which has lost 90% of its normal passenger volumes.

This is just the latest of the city MP’s actions, as he has already submitted a string of parliamentary written questions and raised the issue with the local authority following discussions with the ferry company’s senior management.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Gosport Ferry is vital to not just Portsmouth, but the region. Some rely on it for business and commuting, others for their employment or leisure.

Government has a responsibility to ensure it continues to serve our community. The £17 million package, announced earlier this week, offers no guidance as to what this will mean for businesses like Gosport Ferry.

I am minded to support government in this time of crisis where suitable, but it is unclear what, if anything, they have done to help this service to date. I will continue to lobby the relevant Ministers to make announcements to help this vital regional transport infrastructure.”

Gosport Ferry has been connecting Portsmouth and Gosport since 1875, it carries over 3 million passengers each year and is a vital link for commuters, businesses and leisure travel. Covid-19 social distancing measures have heavily affected their revenue which has left the future of the company hanging in the balance.

Mr Morgan added:

“What have they done to support this service so far? What steps are they taking to ensure the continuation of the service post Covid-19? Can they guarantee the security of the business?

These are the questions that Government’s funding package failed to answer so far which is why I have today put them to the Transport Secretary. Uncertainty at this time could cost jobs and livelihoods for Portsmouth people. I will continue to push for government support for all transport infrastructure struggling under the strain of Covid-19.”

 

http://www.stephenmorgan.org.uk/covid-19-city-mp-takes-action-to-save-gosport-ferry/?fbclid=IwAR3XlA2HvIMr8s6bwa_za2t40OIctkNZ0jnHd5HAXwfkuLWpE6vYVWVD1cw

The Portsmouth South MP is committed to working with the city council and neighbouring Members of Parliament which protects this vital transport link for Portsmouth and Gosport and will be taking further action next week following concerns raised by constituents.

Edited by TonyMWeaver

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Posted (edited)

Mr Morgan may have a point about the Gosport Ferry and maybe it needs financial help -  but surely not to run empty.  One simply sits back in wonder at the lavish services of buses and trains still being provided around here for almost zero passengers. Southern are still running three virtually empty trains an hour each way all day on West Coastway near Millsy Towers with maybe a pax a carriage and today  three, I'll bet, virtually empty rail replacement buses each way an hour are on the road. It's all costing money and it all seems just a tad pointless...

Edited by Millsy
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UPDATE (Portsmouth News):

In a meeting today, leaders from Hampshire County Council, Gosport Borough Council and Portsmouth City Council joined Gosport MP Caroline Dinenage in a video-conference call with the transport secretary, Grant Shapps.

They discussed the urgent financial situation of the Gosport Ferry, which has seen a 90 per cent drop in passengers amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Mr Shapps told Department for Transport officials they have 48 hours to work with local authority leaders and Gosport Ferry owners to pull together a package of support.

Ms Dinenage said: ‘Gosport Ferry is a lifeline to people in our area, that’s why I have been working with ferry bosses, government colleagues and local authorities for many weeks now to find an urgent package of support during the current challenges.

‘I welcome the fast time frame set out by the Secretary of State and his determination to work towards a co-ordinated response to help this vital and much-loved service.’

Gosport Ferry has furloughed 16 of its 36 staff and has seen a 90 per cent decrease in people using it to cross Portsmouth Harbour during the pandemic.

Councils have deferred a £42,000 monthly charge during the crisis but the company has around £150,000 worth of bills to pay each month.

Portsmouth City Council leader, councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson wants councils, the company and the government to each put a third of the total funding into the firm.

He said: 'Usage for the ferry has gone from 7,000 users a day to 600. They've reduced it from two services to one boat.

'They're still losing a lot of money - between £160,000-£170,000 a month.

'Hampshire, Gosport and Portsmouth councils are all prepared to put some money in but we are expecting the company to put some money in because it's a profitable company and the parent company is. We're also expecting central government to put some in.

'If we can do a three-way deal to keep it going that would be really good.'

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The parent company has significant capital reserves, including retained earnings of £24m in equity of £44m  and seems to me to be another that wants to bank the profits in the good times and take dividends in the good times and be bailed out in the bad. 

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Gosport Ferry 'support package' is still under discussion, transport minister Kelly Tolhurst tells Portsmouth MP

A POSSIBLE support package is being examined by transport officials who have been asked to help keep the Gosport Ferry going.

Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan today asked about the progress on talks held between the firm, Hampshire, Portsmouth and Gosport councils, and the Department for Transport.

It comes after a major drop in passengers during lockdown has seen the ferry struggle to make its income match its outgoing spending.

In response to Mr Morgan, transport minister Kelly Tolhurst told the House of Commons: ‘The Gosport Ferry service provides an important service for the local community with regards to navigating their way around the peninsula and that's why myself [and] my right honourable friend (transport secretary Grant Shapps), met the council leaders. ‘We've spoken with the organisation and my officials are working with the councils to find a support package for the operators in order to maintain that service.’ Earlier she said: ‘My honourable friend, my officials and I are working with the company and the councils alongside the extensive financial packages announced by the chancellor.’

Her response alluding to a ‘support package’ came when Mr Morgan asked how the government is supporting cycling and walking infrastructure. The exchange during transport questions today comes after transport secretary Grant Shapps was said to be mulling over proposals over the weekend.

Talks between the firm, councils and Mr Shapps and Gosport MP Caroline Dinenage were held this month. All councils are prepared to put forward cash, but the business and government has been asked to do the same.

Gosport Ferry, owned by FIH group which last year made £3m in profit, has lost 90 per cent of passengers since lockdown.

Councils have suspended £42,000 monthly payments due to them from the lifeline service. This includes lease costs for the Gosport pontoon. The company has around £150,000 worth of bills to pay each month. The firm, which is operating social distancing on its vessels, has furloughed 16 of its 36 staff.

In a statement Mr Morgan said: ‘I know how important the Gosport Ferry is for my constituents and commuters along the south coast which is why I have been working with others to secure its future. ‘It’s a lifeline service for many who rely on it for work, business and leisure. The coronavirus crisis has shone a spotlight on how crucial the crossing service is for the people of Gosport, and Portsmouth.’ He added: 'Government has already given positive signals and has engaged on the issue so far. However, we cannot afford to lose steam. ‘Portsmouth jobs, businesses and livelihoods are what is at risk. I will continue to take action on behalf of residents to ensure a suitable solution is reached to secure the ferry’s future.’

Portsmouth News (18/05/20)

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Hope on the horizon for effort to save Gosport Ferry as Whitehall is 'close' to agreeing a rescue deal

TRANSPORT chiefs in Whitehall have almost finalised a rescue package to save a vital ferry hit by a huge drop in income.

Proposals drawn up by the Department of Transport to help keep Gosport Ferry afloat are ‘very nearly’ completed, Gosport Borough Council’s leader Mark Hook has insisted.

The news follows a campaign to lobby transport secretary Grant Shapps to save the struggling ferry firm, which has seen passenger numbers plummet by 90 per cent since the coronavirus lockdown began.

Councillor Hook was contacted by officials from the secretary of state’s office today and felt confident that a bail-out plan was close to being approved. ‘Progress is being made,’ he said. ‘There’s been a lot of discussion between the local authorities, Department of Transport, the ferry company itself and our MP, Caroline Dinenage, to try and get a planned financial structure in place and I think we’re very, very near to achieving that.’

Local political leaders held talks with Mr Shapps last Monday to ask for support. He ordered proposals should be with him within 48 hours.

Councils proposed they, the company and government should put in funding to maintain the service.

However, 10 days have since passed and the government is yet to officially reveal its plan, leading to frustration in Portsmouth.

The city’s council leader, Gerald Vernon-Jackson said: ‘It would appear that over ten days they’ve made no progress, which is very frustrating. ‘Councils have said we will put money in to keep the ferry service going. But we were very clear with the government: we won’t do this without the government doing their bit as well. ‘And if the government won’t do their bit then it cannot be right to just rely on councils to bail the company out. It needs to be the company, councils and the government working together.’

Cllr Hook added he ‘shared’ Cllr Vernon-Jackson’s ‘frustrations’ over the deal and admitted the process had taken ‘a bit longer’ than hoped. But he added: ‘It’s right that when you are spending taxpayers’ money that it’s done in the right and proper way and that there are no knee-jerk reactions on what we should be doing.’

The ferry normally carries 7,000 passengers a day. But that has slumped to about 600. Workers at the company feel left in limbo. The firm has furloughed 16 of its 36 staff and is operating one ferry instead of two.

The crisis has sparked an online campaign, with more than 11,000 people having signed the ‘Save Gosport Ferry’ petition on change.org

On Monday transport minister Kelly Tolhurst told MPs government officials were ‘working with’ councils to find a’ suitable support package’ to save the ferry firm, which is owned by FIH group plc.

Portsmouth News - 20/05/20

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