The Isle of Wight’s cross-Solent operators are to heavily reduce and, in some cases, suspended their cross-Solent services, it has been announced this afternoon (Wednesday).
Wightlink’s Fastcat service between Ryde and Portsmouth Harbour will be suspended completely from Monday 6th April until normal services can be restored. Meanwhile, a 2-hourly service is to be run on the Fishbourne-Portsmouth Gunwharf route, also operated by Wightlink. This will come into effect from Tuesday 7th April.
Red Funnel are cutting their Red Jet service down to just 4 early morning crossings and 5 evening crossings from Saturday 4th April. From Southampton the morning crossings will operate at 05:45, 06:45, 07:45 and 08:45 and in the evening at 16:45, 17:45, 18:45, 19:45 and 20:45. From West Cowes, in the morning the Red Jet will run at 06:15, 07:15, 08:15 and 09:15 and in the evening at 17:15, 18:15, 19:15, 20:15 and 21:15.
Foot passengers will continue to be able to travel on Red Funnel’s vehicle ferry service, which will continue to operate to its advertised schedule throughout the day.
In the event that Hovertravel is unable to operate due to weather conditions or technical reasons, Southern Vectis will be arranging for its number 9 service to go via Wightlink’s Fishbourne terminal to provide a foot passenger connection from both Newport and Ryde.
Wightlink Chief Executive Keith Greenfield says:
“We are sorry to suspend our FastCat route and reduce sailings between Portsmouth and Fishbourne, however we will still be able to transport all essential travellers and supplies to the Isle of Wight using one of our largest ships.”
Fran Collins, CEO of Red Funnel, said:
“We have seen a significant decline in foot passengers using our Red Jet service in recent weeks due to the government’s guidance regarding non-essential travel. Whilst we are pleased the public is taking this advice seriously and only travelling if absolutely necessary, it subsequently means we are seeing very reduced passenger numbers on all sailings, particularly on our off-peak services where we have sailings operating with very few or even no customers at all.
“Given the current government guidance and very low passengers numbers, the revised timetable is more appropriate and the crossing times will still enable the majority of those still travelling with us to continue to use the Red Jet service, especially NHS and key workers. We are also continuing to operate our vehicle ferry services that foot passengers can use.”
Christopher Garnett, chairman of the Isle of Wight Transport Infrastructure Board, adds:
“These measures have the full support of the Board and will ensure essential, effective and robust cross-Solent ferry services can continue at this very difficult time. The Board and operators are working closely together to ensure full resilience for the Island is maintained in all key areas.
“These are lifeline services for the Island, bringing in all our supplies and freight – including food and fuel – and providing key connectivity in areas such as mainland travel for hospital appointments, whether on foot or by ambulance.
“Each of the operators continues to put in enormous efforts to maintain these services in these unprecedented times, including the promotion of ‘essential travel only’.”
Bob Seely MP has said:
“The ferry companies have now downsized to a skeleton service due to a very significant drop in demand for their services. I’ve had questions from some Islanders asking why visitors are still coming to the Island. Apart from a few very isolated cases, they are not.
“We do however need a skeleton ferry service to ensure food and medical supplies can get to the Island. We also need to make sure that key workers can come here to support the NHS and other vital services that keep people alive and safe.
“I spoke yesterday to the Chief Constable of Hants. and the Isle of Wight, Olivia Pinkney, to see what can reasonably be done to deter any potential visitors over the Easter period. We agreed that in Britain we have a tradition of policing by consent in this country and we need to be mindful of that. However, the Chief Constable will see what measures can be taken.
“The three ferry firms as well as tourism businesses on the Island are doing their best to ensure that we do not have holiday-makers and visitors coming to the Island at this time. They are behaving very responsibly and I thank them for that.”