Wightlink customers have aired their anger and frustration following yesterday’s 5 hour delays on the Portsmouth to Fishbourne car ferry service.
Things went wrong for the ferry operator when St Clare – the second biggest Ro-Ro ferry in the fleet – broke down at Fishbourne with a technical issue at lunchtime. This meant that other ferries couldn’t dock and a backlog soon developed, leading to 60 minute and then 90 minute delays.
Engineers finally managed to move St Clare but the damage to the timetable had already been done. Throughout the afternoon and into the evening traffic started backing up outside each terminal, leading to fairly significant delays in and around Portsmouth especially.
A frustrated driver, who was trying to get back to the Isle of Wight, said:
“It took me 2 hours to drive from the The Cascades to the ferry (usually a 10 minute drive) because Wightlink were delayed and had caused a backlog of traffic from one side of Portsmouth to another”.
By 18:00 the cross-Solent delay had grown to 4 hours with customers booked on the 18:00 sailing from Portsmouth not actually departing until 22:00.
Things went from bad to worse though… one customer has told us they were originally booked on the 19:00 sailing but were transferred to the 20:00. They didn’t actually sail until 01:00 – a delay of 6 hours from their planned departure and 5 hours from the revised departure.
Many people have raised questions as to why the brand new ‘Victoria of Wight’ was moored up at Portsmouth instead of being used to clear the backlog with her 1,100 passenger capacity. According to AIS data, VoW moored up at just before 19:00 last night and hasn’t been used since. St Faith finished her duties shortly before midnight and the St Clare remains moored up alongside the Gunwharf terminal.
As of 08:00 the only ferries in operation between Portsmouth and Fishbourne are the St Cecilia and the St Faith.
A disgruntled Island Echo reader, who last night was returning from a holiday with his family, told us of his experience:
“We were booked on the 6pm but have only just got on a boat at 10pm.
“I’ve spoken to the managers at the Portsmouth end about what they are going to put into place to stop these things happening again. It ruins people’s holidays to the Island or more so affects the Island residents who have no other way to get home. The manager said to me they are doing their best, but clearly they aren’t – they had a boat sat there but no staff to run it.
“Wightlink is an absolute joke. I feel sorry for the staff at lower level than management. As a business they should be ashamed of themselves.
“The service is an embarrassment. Even if it was free I would never travel with them again.”
The delays continued into the early hours too. One customer was booked on the 23:00 sailing but didn’t depart Portsmouth until 03:00. They finally got to their bed at 04:00 – 4 hours later than planned.
A spokesperson for Wightlink has told Island Echo:
“Wightlink is sorry for the delays to customers caused by a technical fault on board St Clare on Friday 12 October. Staff worked to keep disruption to a minimum and services are scheduled to get back to normal later on Saturday morning.
“A crew training programme to operate our new ship Victoria of Wight is well underway but unfortunately it was not possible to bring her back into service on Friday evening after her earlier scheduled crossings.
“Wightlink apologies to all customers affected by the problem”.
It is understood a large newspaper delivery, which was scheduled for the 03:00 boat, was unable to board and therefore newspaper deliveries are expected to be delayed across the Isle of Wight this morning.
At the other end of the Solent, Wightlink’s Yarmouth to Lymington service is once again operating a revised timetable due to further predicted adverse weather conditions. It is thought the issues to this route yesterday (Friday) exacerbated the delays at Portsmouth.
Wightlink’s revised timetable for Yarmouth today (Saturday 13th October) is as follows: