Cowes Floating Bridge: Isle of Wight Council agrees to take legal action

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New floating bridgeImage source, Andrew Cooke
Image caption,
The £3.2m Cowes Floating Bridge replaced an older ferry in 2017

Legal action against the manufacturers of the Isle of Wight's chain ferry has been agreed by a council.

The £3.2m Cowes Floating Bridge has suffered technical problems since coming into service in 2017.

The pandemic has had an impact but the ferry has been out of action since July due to a hydraulic fault.

Isle of Wight Council leader Dave Stewart said "proper process for legal action" would start after a recommendation to proceed was agreed.

The ferry's manufacturer Mainstay Marine has been contacted for a comment.

The ferry has faced a catalogue of problems since entering service in May 2017 including running aground, broken chains and electrical faults.

Image source, Isle of Wight Coucil
Image caption,
The ferry has been out of action since a hydraulic fault was discovered during planned maintenance in July

The council said a "significant amount" of a £426,593 loss in 2020 was down to the coronavirus situation.

In April, passenger numbers plummeted more than than 80% compared with April 2019 due to coronavirus lockdown restrictions. By July, the figures were still only about half those of July 2019.

When the ferry is not working a launch is in place for foot passengers, while vehicles face a 11-mile (18km) detour via Newport.

'Fit for purpose'

A recommendation to proceed with legal proceedings was agreed by the council's corporate scrutiny committee, reports the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

"In my view, this vessel hasn't been fit for purpose as agreed in the contract. We are now proceeding with our legal process.

"There are two stages, the first stage is the mediation and discussions and then if that doesn't resolve the situation we end up in court dealing with the actual costs involved."

Mr Stewart previously said the council has spent about £3.5m on the vessel since May 2017.

The ferry has been out of action since a hydraulic fault was discovered during routine maintenance in July.

The meeting heard that spare parts had to be manufactured and it was hoped to have the vessel working again later this month.

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