It’s been yet another turbulent week for cross-Solent travel, continuing the 8 weeks of chaos across all 3 operators – Red Funnel, Wightlink and Hovertravel.
The past 2 months have been a massive headache for those travelling to and from the Isle of Wight with fires, collisions and mechanical breakdowns hindering travel across the 6 major routes.
This week alone the Red Funnel ferry collided with a yacht and ran aground, Wightlink’s Yarmouth ferry was pulled from service multiple times due to a mechanical problem and Hovertravel’s Island Flyer was suspended for not only 8 hours on Sunday, but for an hour on Wednesday night too.
Island Echo has taken a look back at the past 8 weeks and compiled a comprehensive timeline of incidents, cancellations and suspensions. This timeline of events excludes delays and incidents that have gone unreported.
Timeline of events – 26th August – 26th October
Key: 🔴 (30) Technical/Mechanical/Legal ⚫ (7) Adverse Weather ⚪ (4) Information
🔴 26th August – Wightlink’s Wight Sky suffers an engine fire mid-Solent
🔴 27th August – Wightlink’s Yarmouth-Lymington service suspended as a result of the fire
⚪ 29th August – Wightlink involved in man overboard incident outside Portsmouth Harbour
🔴 6th September – Wightlink run a revised timetable for 3 days due to a mechanical issue with Victoria of Wight
🔴 11th September – Hovertravel operate a shuttle service for approx. 1 hour
🔴 16th September – Red Funnel cancel 2 vehicle ferry sailings due to a technical issue
⚫ 18th September – Hovertravel suspend their service due to strong winds
⚫ 19th September – Hovertravel continue suspension of service due to strong winds
🔴 19th September – Wightlink cancel the 07:50 sailing from Lymington
🔴 20th September – Hovertravel announce a shuttle service due to a technical issue with Solent Flyer
🔴 21st September – Hovertravel withdraw Solent Flyer from service for 7 weeks and enter a 1-craft service
🔴 21st September – Red Jet service suspended due to a failure with Red Jet 4
⚫ 21st September – Hovertravel suspend their service due to adverse weather
⚫ 21st September – Wightlink cancel 4 sailings on Yarmouth-Lymington route due to adverse weather
🔴 23rd September – Hovertravel suspend their service due to a technical issue
🔴 24th September – Wightlink’s Victoria of Wight suffers a technical fault mid-Solent
🔴 27th September – Red Funnel’s Red Eagle collides with moored boats in foggy conditions
🔴 29th September – Red Funnel’s Red Osprey collides with a motorboat off Calshot
🔴 30th September – Hovertravel suspend their service due to a technical issue – twice
🔴 1st October – Hovertravel service suspended for almost the entire day
⚪ 1st October – Hovertravel resumes service after some 30 hours
🔴 3rd October – Wightlink’s Yarmouth-Lymington service reduced to 1 ferry due to a mechanical issue
⚫ 5th October – All routes affected by fog with delays, cancellations and suspensions
⚪ 10th October – Maritime and Coastguard Agency appeal for witnesses to Red Funnel’s 29th Sept collision
🔴 11th October – Hovertravel suspend their service for 4 hours due to a mid-Solent technical fault
⚫ 12th October – Wightlink operate a 2-hourly service due to anticipated high winds
⚫ 12th October – Hovertravel suspend their service due to adverse weather
🔴 12th October – Wightlink’s St Clare pulled from service resulting in 5 hour delays
🔴 13th October – Hovertravel suspend their service for over an hour due to a technical issue
🔴 14th October – Red Funnel cancel a number of sailings due to a technical issue
🔴 15th October – Hovertravel suspend their service for an hour due to a technical issue
⚪ 15th October – Island Echo exclusively reveals Wightlink’s St Clare was pulled due to a certification issue
🔴 16th October – Hovertravel suspend their service for around an hour due to a technical issue
🔴 21st October – Hovertravel suspend their service for 8 hours on the day of the Great South Run
🔴 21st October – Red Funnel’s Red Falcon collides with a moored yacht and runs aground – Major Incident declared
🔴 21st October – Red Jet services suspended as a result of the closure of Cowes Harbour following the Red Falcon incident
🔴 21st October – Wightlink cancel a number of sailings on the Yarmouth-Lymington route due to a ‘clutch issue’
🔴 22nd October – Wightlink cancel even more sailings on the Yarmouth-Lymington route
🔴 24th October – Hovertravel suspend their service due to another technical issue
🔴 25th October – Wightlink cancel a number of sailings on the Yarmouth-Lymington route
🔴 25th October – Wightlink operating a revised timetable on their catamaran service due to essential maintenance
In addition to the above, the Cowes Floating Bridge was pulled from service due to technical issues on 20th September, 24th October and 25th October. A staff member was seriously injured on 26th September.
Island Echo reader Barry Jones is just one local resident who has this week taken to Facebook to express disgruntlement about the situation:
“What on earth is going wrong with our ferry systems? I’ve lived here since 1973 and can’t remember anything like it.
“The Floating Bridge was always out of commission for servicing but that was all. Now, the hovercrafts don’t work and both Red Funnel and Wightlink withdraw boats and cancel services.
“I’ve never been a fan of a fixed link but now I’m not so sure”.
Carl Feeney, who is leading the campaign for a fixed link between the Isle of Wight and the mainland, has told Island Echo:
“Soon we will be entering periods of darkness, freezing temperatures and storms. Each of the cross Solent operators will have route disruptions exacerbated by these factors… and the travellers will be even greater impacted upon.
“At present, we have the operators using every trick in the book to maximise profits from each route, to the extent that sometimes safety and reliability appear to be compromised… some even operating illegally.
“Meanwhile though, we have a ‘ticking time bomb’ of limited ferry capacity. We have gone from a turn up and go ferry service not so long ago, to a demand driven pricing policy that creates an environment of stress and anxiety when booking… and you MUST book. Occasionally, it is impossible to get off of the island on the day you wish with a vehicle.
“Soon though with the inevitable further increase in population combined with the limited ferry capacity, we will see even higher demand driven fares, greater unreliability and less availability. Tourists won’t be able to come and go, businesses and deliveries will suffer, islanders will be even more restricted… perhaps unable to access healthcare.
“This is a real situation and time is ticking. The solution of alternative 21st century access must be explored, before it’s too late. The ARUP led Solent Freedom Tunnel viability study will carry out that exploration. The sooner that study is carried out, the better.
“An alternative to the ferries is essential if the island is to survive. It would be great to get it initiated this year”.
Contributions towards the study can be made at https://solentfreedomtunnel.co.uk/crowd-funding-for-the-arup-viability-study/.
Having covered each and every story over the past 8 weeks, Darren Toogood, Editor and Publisher of Island Echo has said:
“It is clear from the comments made across our social media platforms, such as Mr Jones’ above, that Island residents are truly fed up with the state of cross-Solent travel. The past 8 weeks have been particularly disruptive, as you can see from our timeline of events.
“Island Echo will continue to highlight the failings of the 3 operators and hold each of them to account accordingly. Equally, we will always highlight the positive work of the ferry companies within the local community.
“It has got to the stage where something has to be done quickly to protect our Island, its economy and the safety of those crossing the Solent”.