The Price of a Postcode

Called Wightlink today to investigate books of tickets. I’d heard that for Island residents, 5 return car ferry tickets could be had for around £200.

WIghtlink are one of two ferry companies who operate car ferries from the Isle of Wight to the rest of civilization, so if you want a car on or off The Island, it’s these guys or Red Funnel.

Me: How much is a book of 5 return tickets? I live on the Island.

Operator: That’s £213.50.

Me: Cool. How do I get them?

Operator: You’ll need to go to a terminal and show them your driving license with an Island address on it.

My driving license has a mainland address (we rent on short-term leases, so I’ve always left the address as my parents’ house since they’re not going far).

Me: I have lots of utility bills.

Operator: That’s no good. They only accept driving licenses.

Now at this point, imagine me with a bit of disappointment. I can vaguely understand why they insist on an Island registered license, since the company has a long-standing habit of charging Islanders less to go to the mainland than vice versa – debate amongst yourselves the pros and cons of this – so I ask the inevitable:

Me: Okay, how much will it be to get the same set of tickets if I have a mainland driving license?

Operator: £390

Me: *Stunned*

The price of the tickets, fuel surcharges, the oddly strict driving license address rule, everything else pales into insignificance when you realise just how vastly different Wightlink treat Islanders and mainlanders.

Fuel Surcharges

BBC Brent Crude price at close 22-05-08This month Wightlink -one of the main ferry companies operating between the Isle of Wight and mainland UK – introduced a fuel surcharge which “is linked to the price of oil (Brent Crude)”. Wightlink’s surcharge is based on the previos month average, which looks from here to be within the $105-115/barrel bracket for April 08. Wightlink have published a chart which shows their surcharge against month-start oil prices, which shows that the surcharge this month (if my figures are about right) is therefore £0.20 on foot passengers, £1.50 on cars, and so on.

While the local newspaper carries a set of letters from upset locals despairing at the increase in prices, I don’t think anybody has really noticed that it is a linked price, which means that come the first of every month it will be revised again. Based on current figures, my thumb-in-air guess is that we should sit in the $115-$125 bracket, which puts the surcharge at £0.25 and £2.00 for foot passengers and cars respectively.

Today; Brent Crude briefly hit a $135/barrel high and if prices continue to hover around or above the £135 mark we can expect another surcharge increase in July (in fact, Wightlink would have to republish their charts, since they don’t cover £135+!)

The simple evident fact is that we appear to be witnessing a potential £0.50 increase every month (for foot passengers alone) as long as the oil prices continue to grow at this pace. Naturally the oil prices may stagnate, or even decline – I’m certainly no expert on oil economics, but I think it’s really beginning to hit home how directly our lives are influenced by what appears to be a very unstable commodity.