Letter: One simple Covid measure missing from Isle of Wight ferries (updated)

This reader shares what he believes is a simple Covid-19 measure that could make travelling on ferries safer

Red handrail

OnTheWight always welcomes a Letter to the Editor to share with our readers – unsurprisingly they don’t always reflect the views of this publication. If you have something you’d like to share, get in touch and of course, your considered comments are welcome below.

This from Paul Carter. Ed

We are fairly regular travellers on the car ferries.

In January I noticed that for all of Red Funnel’s announcements about Covid measures, one simple problem persisted.

Busy stairs
That is when the call to return to vehicles issued, there is a close concentration of people at the stairway entrances and on the stairs.

Additionally I have noticed that people use the handrail more often when descending, presumably due to the angle of the stairs.

Return to vehicles in stages
I wrote to Red Funnel to suggest that they announce the return to vehicles in two stages-bottom deck first, then middle. There could be a couple of minutes between the calls to allow disinfectant to be applied to the rails.

There is adequate time to do this as in our experience the current call is usually ten minutes or so before exit. Apart from the Covid protection benefits it would probably make the whole procedure safer and less stressful.

No change
All I have had from them is an acknowledgement , and travelling this week I noticed the procedure is unchanged.

If they have a good reason as to why this could not be done, could they tell us? Otherwise it seems like little effort for a worthwhile benefit.

Response from Red Funnel
In response to Paul Carter’s Letter to News OnTheWight, a spokesperson for Red Funnel said,

“At Red Funnel, safety is always our top priority, and at these times even more than ever. We currently have a two-stage procedure in place for disembarking our vehicle ferries. This involves calling all passengers from B deck first, then A and AA deck.

“At times, if a vessel has very low numbers of passengers travelling, then we may not use the two-stage procedure as our ongoing safety measures are sufficient at such a low capacity.

“We did receive the passenger’s aforementioned letter and communicated our procedure back to the customer when they first wrote to us. We appreciate them taking the time to write to us and we have taken the opportunity to share the passenger’s latest observation with our team and ensure staff are implementing the two-stage procedure when required.

“Passengers should feel relaxed and ‘Sail Safe’ with us, knowing that we continuously review all guidelines in accordance with our own procedures.”

Article edit
5.45pm 19th Apr 2021 – Response from Red Funnel added

Image: Mitchell Luo under CC BY 2.0

Monday, 19th April, 2021 9:43am


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Filed under: Ferry, Health, Island-wide, Letter to the Editor, Travel

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9 Comments on "Letter: One simple Covid measure missing from Isle of Wight ferries (updated)"

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The simple method is that you get to your vehicle and antibacterial your hands there. Wiping banisters between two large number of people will not make a difference. It is your responsibility to ensure your safety. Stop laying it all on travel companies etc and take some responsibility for yourself.

The whole thing is cobblers. The safest place for most passengers is in their car. What RF, Wl and the MCA are actually saying is that you must get out of your car because of the action that will be taken in an emergency. BUT how often is there an emergency ? The real risk with Emergency v. COVID is actaully Covid not the ferry being involved… Read more »
Let’s consider some statistics. The UK has around 4.4 million recorded cases of Covid-19. Of those, rather less than 130,000 have died. That’s a death rate of around 0.03%. When the Herald of Free Enterprise capsized in 1987, 193 of the 539 souls onboard perished. That’s a death rate of around 35%. Whilst maritime disasters are rare, their impact is huge. I’m sure the risk managers from… Read more »

Less than 3%.
Not 0.03%.
I’m rubbish at maths!
But the point still stands.

Rhos yr Alarch

I think to make a comparison with a sixteen-month global pandemic we need to look at all seagoing deaths worldwide in the sixteen months leading up to March 1987. We would also need to consider the cumulative onward infections on either side of the Solent from those infected within the restricted space of the stairwell…

Rhos yr Alarch
This seems to suggest that staggering return times to vehicles would increase risk in some way? I’m not sure how that would be the case, surely the risk of a crush, or people being knocked domino-like down the stairs would be reduced, just as the Covid risk would be lowered. Otherwise, why would airlines adopt this sort of approach during aircraft embarkation? It seems more likely that… Read more »
Take your own care as your own responsibility, the hand rails even with delay will still be contaminated, can’t believe someone wrote this letter to RF. I carry hand sanitizer wipes/gel with me at all times and the responsibility for my safety when out is mine. We must draw a line somewhere on what we expect businesses to do to protect us and start thinking for ourselves.… Read more »
Rhos yr Alarch

Simple measures don’t seem to enter into it, I’m afraid…. it’s either complicated, or nothing!


Red Funnel know the restrictions make no logical sense anyway yet they’re obliged to enforce this nonsense by the Govt. Now you’re moaning because there isn’t more illogical rules? Get a grip man.