Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Cowes 'floating bridge': Makers insist ferry 'will succeed'

Chain ferry closed
Image caption A launch is being used to ferry foot passengers while drivers face a 10-mile road diversion.

The maker of Isle of Wight's troubled new floating bridge has insisted it will be a "success", despite its continued suspension.

Cars scraped their bumpers while disembarking and stranded passengers waded through water when it broke down on its first weekend in operation.

It remains suspended on the orders of the Maritime Coastguard Agency (MCA).

Mainstay Marine said it was working on an "enhanced" training programme for the crew.

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Media captionCar bumpers scraped getting on and off the "floating bridge" ramp

Stewart Graves, managing director of Pembroke-based Mainstay Marine, said there had been concerns crew were struggling to operate ferry systems but a new training scheme includes a test at the end to ensure they "absorb" what was learnt.

'Wonky banger'

The service was suspended on 14 May. At a meeting of East Cowes Town Council on Thursday, local businesses claimed it had been a "unmitigated disaster".

Shop owner Angela Booth, said: "We got a wonky banger that is slower, more dangerous and completely unfit for purpose".

Image copyright Karl Love
Image caption Passengers were helped from the stricken chain ferry when it broke down on its second day in operation

Mr Graves said: "I'm comfortable the slipway is at the right angle and the ramps are suitable for safe off-loading. It's all due to positioning - being placed on the slipway and lowering to the right angle.

"I feel comfortable the vessel is fit for purpose and will be a success with the enhanced crew training."

Isle of Wight Council said it was working with the manufacturer to "resolve the issues identified during the live testing".

"It was anticipated that during the first couple of weeks, that there would be some issues to be ironed out that could not be identified until the vessel was back in service and in full use," the authority said.

An MCA spokeswoman said it was "waiting on remedial action" before surveyors would reassess the service.

A launch is being used to ferry foot passengers while drivers face a 10-mile road diversion.

Image caption Crowds gathered for the much anticipated first crossing of the new chain ferry

Cowes Floating Bridge - Timeline

  • July 2014 - IOW Council and Solent Local Enterprise Partnership agree funding for a new £4.6m chain ferry and slipway work
  • April 2016 - Work begins on the new vessel at Mainstay Marine in Pembroke Dock
  • 3 January - The old chain ferry makes its final journey after operating for 40 years between Cowes and East Cowes.
  • 27 February - The launch of the new chain ferry is delayed because of tidal issues
  • 28 March - The council U-turns on banning "Floaty McFloatface" in an online poll for a name for the new vessel
  • 14 May - Crowds gathered to watch the chain ferry begin operating but cars struggled to embark and disembark without scraping their bumpers
  • 15 May - The floating bridge breaks down due to electrical fault, with passengers pictured wading to the slipway
  • 16 May - The Maritime and Coastguard Agency suspends the service citing "training issues"

Image copyright Andrew Cooke
Image caption The old chain ferry was taken out of service on 2 January

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