The majority Conservative Group at County Hall has confirmed that a provision of £3m of capital funding for a new Cowes floating bridge will be included in next month’s budget proposals. The announcement of this commitment is being made now so that initial preparations for the tendering process for a design and build contract can get underway, in anticipation of the decision at February’s budget setting meeting.
Leader of the IW Council, Cllr David Pugh said: “The two IW Councillors for the East Cowes area, Edward Giles and Margaret Webster, have campaigned relentlessly to secure the future of this route – recognising how vital it is for local residents and businesses. This view is of course shared by councillors in Cowes and those elsewhere on the Island, who know what an essential part of our infrastructure the chain ferry is – helping also to reduce traffic flows through Newport.
“Many Island residents know that a replacement floating bridge is much needed and will secure the long-term future of this route. However we have not been able to commit to such expenditure before now, because of the significant financial challenges the local authority has faced recently. Now that we have our house in order, we are able to turn our attention to key capital projects such as this. We will continue to take the necessary decisions to enable such crucial investment to take place.”
Cllr Edward Giles, who represents Whippingham and Osborne on the Council, and is the Cabinet Member responsible for transport commented: “I am delighted that we have been able to agree to provide capital funding for a new floating bridge. The current chain ferry has been in service for over 35 years and is coming to the end of its working life. We anticipate going out to tender on the basis of a design and build contract. We shall be looking for innovation in the design and technology for the new ferry and hope that it will last as long as its predecessor has done.”
Cllr Giles added: “Originally we had been pressing for a new floating bridge to be provided within the scope of the Island’s Highways PFI project but unfortunately the previous government would not agree. My colleagues in the Council’s Conservative Group have backed me in recognising that we cannot do without this essential crossing of the Medina. We intend going out to tender as soon as the budget has been approved.”
Cllr Margaret Webster, who represents East Cowes, welcomed the news. She said: “Everyone in the town will be delighted. We all know that the days of the existing floating bridge are numbered and it was obviously a worry that in these difficult financial times the Council might not have been able to afford a replacement. It is a welcome by-product of the tough financial decisions the Council has taken that we are now in a position to fund a replacement.
“I have also campaigned to ensure that the floating bridge remains free for pedestrians and cyclists. I am pleased that my colleagues have also reaffirmed their commitment to this policy and I look forward to this continuing well into the future, when we have our new floating bridge in place.”