To receive questions from, and provide answers to, the public, provided they have been submitted in accordance with the requirements of Standing Order 13.4(f).
The Council received the following question from Mr Richard Coates:
Council Infrastructure Levy (CIL) money (£20,000) has been given to provide alternative options of transport via the Hayling Ferry for those needing to commute between Hayling and Portsmouth for work, to ease congestion during the rush hour was an innovative action.
However virtually no commuters are using the service and unless changes are made to provide passengers then at the end of the trial period the bus service will cease.
Research has clearly shown that both residents and tourists are keen and willing to use the bus, but not at the times currently run under the conditions set out by the council.
Will the council agree to a reschedule of the existing service on weekdays and adding a Saturday service using the CIL and Co-op sponsorship monies that remain?
Response from Councillor Tim Pike
The Hayling Ferry Working Group was established by Mr Mark Coates in January, and has met regularly under Councillor Wilson’s chairmanship to examine how the ferry can be enabled to continue as a year round regular service. Since the ferry was re-established the operators have done a great job in providing a good quality service, but the number of users is less than break-even during periods of the year.
Cllr Wilson and I both felt this was an important issue – not only to residents on Hayling Island – but to other users of the A3023 which is already under considerable pressure and the ferry has the potential to reduce that pressure.
The Hayling Travel Survey, published by this Council in December 2017, was used as the evidence base for the trial bus service. The survey showed that the most popular reason for leaving Hayling Island was travel to work, and the post popular destination after Havant is Portsmouth. Half of respondents indicated that they would be prepared to use the ferry more if there were improved connections.
Therefore, the trial bus service was established to meet the highest potential customer base – commuters to Portsmouth who currently drive and contribute to the peak travel flows on and off the Island. I have worked hard to get a joined-up service, and we now have a commuter service on Hayling and an hourly service on the Portsmouth side – with a ferry timetable that makes the journey into Portsmouth as slick as possible. The ticket prices reflect the costs of providing the service – therefore it has the potential to become sustainable without public funding.
Unfortunately, it is becoming clear that the residents of Hayling are not using the service as envisaged – and we are closely monitoring the usage. I need to be clear that the funding was sought in order to alleviate pressure on the A3023, not for the purposes of increasing leisure journeys. Therefore, I welcome the suggestion of additional services initially covered by other sources of funding e.g. sponsorship from businesses, but I do not think our Council should be continuing to subsidise the service without a detailed plan to move to self-financing within an agreed period. The various suggestions to reduce costs will only result in an ongoing public subsidy.
In summary, the working group members which have included two members of the Coates Family, the residents’ association, an Eastney Portsmouth City Councillor and the ferry operator have been involved throughout the process of deciding how to direct the initial funding to best effect using published evidence. If Mr Coates feels that changes should be made, he should bring that forward to the working group which is meeting again shortly.