The cross-Solent operator says this decision reflects the increasing demand for Wightlink’s services as Government lockdown restrictions are relaxed and has been taken in consultation with the Isle of Wight Council’s Transport Infrastructure Board.
It’s not all good news though, as at present there is no case for reintroducing the Fast Cat service with the current foot travel demand being just 15% of normal levels.
There will be 8 round-trip sailings each day, operating roughly every 2 hours, using 1 of Wightlink’s Wight-class ferries. The first will depart Lymington at 05:35, the last at 20:05. Customers will be directed to the passenger lounge or outside sun deck during the crossing and need to wear face coverings during the crossing.
Toilet facilities will be available but, initially, the café and shop onboard will not be open.
Wightlink Chief Executive Keith Greenfield says:
“I am delighted we can restart services between Lymington and Yarmouth from Friday 17 July.
“Our partnership with the Isle of Wight Council’s Transport Infrastructure Board and the other cross-Solent operators has ensured ferries have kept the Island supplied with essential goods and services throughout the crisis.
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“We hope to make an announcement later this summer about resuming our FastCat route between Portsmouth Harbour and Ryde Pier, but demand from foot passengers is still only around 15% of normal levels and would not support services from two operators. The current combined timetable is designed to provide enough capacity for Islanders and visitors while helping operators survive financially, fund their vessel maintenance programmes in the autumn and protect jobs and services for the future.”
Wightlink’s Portsmouth-Fishbourne route has maintained a lifeline service throughout the pandemic. Hourly sailings on this route will resume from Monday 6th July. Customers will continue to remain in their vehicles during the crossings until further notice.
Leader of the Isle of Wight Council, Dave Stewart, has said:
“I really welcome this move from Wightlink which recognises the need to restore this essential service for the West Wight community and also demonstrates its confidence that the Island is re-opening and ready to welcome visitors back to support our local businesses.
“I cannot speak highly enough of the work of all the ferry companies in keeping the Island connected to the mainland over the last few months, working with and with the support of the Department for Transport.
“This service has been vital to maintain the flow of goods and services necessary to sustain Island life.
“Having worked closely with the ferry companies, I recognise the commercial challenges they are still facing, but I am asking that they look to restore all their services to a regular schedule as soon as possible.
“This will give everyone the confidence they can easily get to and from the Island and in order to rebuild our Island’s economy.
“I am especially keen for Wightlink to restore its Ryde to Portsmouth catamaran to reconnect with the national rail service and our vital visitor markets in the south east.”