A senior councillor has shared his frustrations about the lack of Wightlink’s usual passenger service to and from Ryde, saying that it is ‘cutting off the Island’.
As lockdown restrictions start easing and with a potential increase in visitors to the Isle of Wight, ferry services have started to be put back on after passenger demand got so low, operators pulled routes out of service.
However, one service, in particular, is causing great stress to residents, business owners and officials – as it is yet to be put back on.
The Wightlink FastCat route from Ryde to Portsmouth, which directly links the railways on and off the Island, will be out of service for some time still due to the lack of passenger demand as people continue to work from home and tourists are being advised against non-essential journeys on public transport.
Speaking yesterday (Thursday), at a meeting of the Isle of Wight Council’s policy and scrutiny committee for regeneration and neighbours, the cabinet member for regeneration and business development, Cllr Wayne Whittle, described the on-going complications and talks with Wightlink bosses as ‘very distressing’ and affecting sustainable transport on the Island.
“The FastCat not working is affecting our resorts and that is where the ferry companies, Wightlink in particular, are directing people to the car ferries – encouraging more vehicles over here and less sustainable transport, which is disappointing.”
With some coach firms that typically bring a large number of visitors to the Island going bust, Cllr Whittle said one of the only ways tourists can come across on foot is by train and passenger ferries and having a rail-to-rail connection.
“It is very disappointing when you think the government is funding, to the tune of millions, cross-Solent ferries and railways, but we have ended up with one of the only broken rail links in the country and that has excluded people who don’t have vehicles coming here.
“I would really like to see Wightlink doing their part to get the FastCat going for Ryde as the Hovertravel is a very good service but it is not very well linked to the rail.”
Hovertravel does provide a shuttle bus service for its users to get to both Portsmouth Harbour and Portsmouth and Southsea stations but the FastCat terminal in Portsmouth is directly in the Portsmouth Harbour terminal.
Cllr Whittle also said the messaging about non-essential journeys has not helped the perception for public transport and has asked Isle of Wight MP Bob Seely to lobby the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, to change the message.
Cllr Whittle hopes this would improve demand for ferry and rail operators because without the Portsmouth to Ryde route ‘it is cutting off the Island’.
Cabinet member for infrastructure and transport, Cllr Ian Ward, said the council is going to ‘try to delve deeper into Wightlink’s rationale’ because getting the FastCats up and running would benefit everyone.