Cowes Floating Bridge

Consultation - re-introduction of foot passenger charges


The Floating Bridge has been in operation since 1859, with cyclists and foot passengers travelling for free since 1992. There is, however, no requirement in law for the Council to provide a floating bridge between East and West Cowes. The Council wants to continue providing the service, but has to do so without adding additional cost to its overall revenue budget. At 38 years’ old, the current vessel is reaching the end of its life. More detailed information about the operation of the bridge is provided in the information sheet which can be viewed by clicking here .

In June, the Council conducted an informal consultation for the Medina Valley Area Action Plan, including these questions:

  • Do you agree that there should be a Floating Bridge between Cowes and East Cowes?
  • What are your views on the importance of a pedestrian and vehicle link across the River Medina between Cowes and East Cowes?

The responses were overwhelmingly in support of continuing to provide a Floating Bridge between the two towns – widely regarded as vitally important.

Last April, the Council made a joint bid with Southampton for funding from the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership for a project that will upgrade the Red Funnel ferry terminals in both East Cowes and Southampton.  A new Floating Bridge was included in the scheme, as it was seen as a vital link between East and West Cowes.

The objectives for the new bridge are:

  • Reduced queuing times
  • Increased crossings per day
  • Shorter crossing times
  • Greater capacity for vehicles
  • Reduced running costs
  • Improved passenger accommodation
  • Reduced carbon emissions
  • Improved energy efficiency
  • Less congestion in and around Newport
  • Increased financial and operational security
  • Separation of vehicles and passengers
  • Introduce opportunities to advertise local business and attractions
  • Supporting the economic well-being of the towns
  • Introduce new technologies for payment – smart/proximity cards, mobile phone


The offer of grant funding towards the cost of replacing the bridge will not be enough to cover the full costs of its replacement.  It is also most likely to be conditional on the Council having an agreed plan to replace the bridge in the future, together with provision for maintenance over the full life-cycle of the new vessel. 

The Council may, therefore, have to start charging for the use of the bridge by pedestrians and cyclists and we would like your views on how it could change its charging regime to account for these needs.

A final decision on the new funding will be made in January 2015. The aim will be to have the new floating bridge in operation from the summer of 2016.  If funding is not secured, the Council will review its options to replace the bridge.            

Please click here to complete the survey (opens in a new window).  The closing date for comments on this consultation is Friday 31 October 2014.