New hovercraft to be taken out of service for several weeks

The manager of Hovertravel has issued a personal apology to passengers as the company announces the two new craft will be taken out of service for several weeks, resulting in a number of commuter cancellations.

New Hovercraft in factory

Since the introduction of the two new hovercraft last year, there have been many occasions where services have been disrupted due to technical issues.

Neil Chapman, Managing Director of Hovertravel Ltd has this week written to customers setting out plans for the service in the coming couple of months. It’s resulted in a number of cancellations during peak hours (see detail). Ed


I have over the last few months sent several apologies as to the current situation and continued delays you have experienced, and whilst I would like to continue to sincerely say how sorry I am for the issues you have faced, I wanted to take this opportunity to advise of the plans and actions we are undertaking to resolve the issues we are facing.

Several operational issues
It’s clear to us all the implementation of the two-new craft has had several operational issues, and whilst these are resolvable it’s taking considerably longer than we had planned. In addition, we are managing the continued use of the existing craft.

Both issues have been discussed today in a management & staff review, and I would like to advise the following.

Solent Flyer & Island Flyer
The new craft fleet is approaching a combined total of 2,000 operational hours, and during this time we have identified areas of improvements.

This remedial and upgrade work to enhance the performance is planned in the coming weeks. This will be carried out at Ryde & Woolston by the teams at Griffon Hoverwork & Hovertravel.

This will mean we will not have the use of these craft on a continuous basis over the coming weeks.

Freedom 90
This craft continues to be operational, and we have committed (and will continue to do so) to invest into her to ensure she is serviceable until we see the new craft into ‘full’ service.

Island Express
This craft is currently laid up at Woolston, however the board of directors has confirmed we will be investing in her to ensure she is serviceable in the near future. This will, though, be several weeks while additional parts are purchased.

These aspects in relation to craft availability have prompted us to review the timetable we can offer you. Our objective is to offer confidence in the services we operate.

Cancellations
Therefore, for a temporary period we will be operating a one craft timetable until 28th February, as follows:

From Tuesday 10th January until Tuesday 28th February, the Winter Timetable will run with the following cancellations:

Mon – Fri Ex Ryde 0730, 0800, 0830, 1600, 1630, 1700, 1730
Mon – Fri Ex Southsea 0745, 0815, 0845, 1615, 1645, 1715, 1745

Any passenger booked on any of the above services are asked to please book on an alternative crossing or be on a priority standby.

Any passengers not affected by the cancelled services are asked to be mindful and use their booked time.

Refunds
If you are booked on a cancelled service as listed above, and are unable or do not wish to transfer to an alternative service.

Hovertravel will refund all Wightlink costs from Ryde Pier on production of your receipts – in addition we will offer a complimentary apology voucher for each alternative journey taken.

Please approach our cashiers or scan your receipts to info@hovertravel.com (this is for the period and on the services listed above only and to qualify you must have a reservation on a cancelled service).

We have put the following further procedures in place to ensure the least possible inconvenience to all passengers:

Priority line
A priority line will be implemented for all season, travel card and company ticket customers between 0550-0845 & 1620-1745 (Ryde) & 1535-1830 (Southsea) similar to you may have seen at the Festival times.

The company’s objective is to always offer the 15 minute service that so many of you use. In the event the craft are serviceable and available for use, we will re-instate and operate the cancelled crossings at short notice. This will be advised, where possible via our service status or via email updates, although these may be at short notice.

During the period of the revised timetable you may be travelling on any of our craft during this time as we carry out this important work across our fleet. In addition to this, you may see other craft at sea on trials.

Additional staff
I would also add, the company has invested in additional resources with a Project Director joining us from Griffon Hoverwork to work alongside our teams to resolve and implement the new craft for the future of the business.

I must stress, Hovertravel is totally committed and all the issues we are facing have solutions.

Personal apologies
Once again, I am personally sorry for the inconvenience these issues have caused your daily travel plans. Rest assured, all the staff at Hovertravel are totally committed to resolving the current situation and ask for your understanding during this time.

I will be in touch on 21st February with an update on our progress to revert to the 15 minute timetable with two craft.

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Wednesday, 11th January, 2017 7:46am

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Filed under: Hover, Island-wide, Ryde, Isle of Wight, Top story, Travel

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Any views or opinions presented in the comments below are solely those of the author and do not represent those of OnTheWight.

11 Comments

  1. Rode on one of the new ones a few weeks ago – slow run across the Solent because of fog, which of course can’t be helped – but then it couldn’t make it up the shingle bank at Southsea. There wasn’t enough ooomph. So it had to back out for a run up, which didn’t work. Then a short run out to sea again and a longer run up – which did. Surprised that it lacked the power to push up the bank. However, Hovertravel are a great company who are investing a lot of money to protect the future of the service, and have great customer service – as demonstrated above. They may have problems with the new craft but they communicate this in an open and clear way.

  2. Mason Watch


    11.Jan.2017 9:47am

    I must take issue with the comment “they communicate this in an open and clear way”…..as commuters we put up with many delays, cancellations and reduced service announcements which are due to ‘technical issues’ When this is mentioned to the staff they cannot provide a reason and simply repeat ‘technical’ when it is clear to all concerned that there is a major issue with the craft. It is only when there cannot be any hiding the fact that there are major problems that this sort of letter is produced. The effect is these changes is going to be dreadful for commuters and this morning the queue for the stand by on the 7.15 was nearly out of the door. it is also extremely unfortunate that it is the staff on the ground who have to deal with the irritation and anger from the customers. Where are the managers – you rarely see anyone other than the normal ground staff. Management are conspicuously absent when they should be available to listen to and provide details to the customers. I’m not going to say how many years I have been travelling but I can say that the last 9 to 12 months have seen customer service and reliability fall to levels that I have never experienced before and I am speaking for a lot of people who talk to each other on the craft and waiting in the inevitable queues. Picture the scene – the hover is late, there’s a waiting room full of staff, the old craft is the only one running. It would seem sensible to have two sets of steps available but no – three or four staff are lined up at the base of the single set and no one appears to have the common sense to use the second set to speed up the turnaround. Where a delay or problem occurs it is the poor ticket desk operative who has the task of advising the passengers of the news – where is the management then?
    It’s turned into a shambolic mess and these new craft have issues at a fundamental level which the other comments make note of. Where compensation for buying Wightlink tickets has been provided the process is tedious and often a fight to obtain from start to finish and having seen a number of ‘lively’ discussions the staff appear to be ill-informed of what can be done for the aggrieved customers.

    This is not the first time a new craft has been a disaster and commuters still talk of the previous 100 seater which mysteriously disappeared a few years ago, never to be seen again. The general feeling amongst the commuters I know is that these new craft are not fit for purpose but I hope that this is not proved to be the case.

    So for the next 5 to 6 weeks we are reliant on a 27 year old craft running day and night without breaking down ……..there’s not a lot of hope.

    My plea to Neil Chapman is be honest with your customers, most of whom have been loyal to the company for years. let’s see some management doing the dirty work instead of the long suffering workers and on no account get rid of the two older craft for the foreseeable future – there’s little trust in the new ones!

    Finally Mr Chapman and management – support your staff who are always cheerful and keen to assist – don’t leave it to them, get out and take some of the hassle

    • Mason Watch


      11.Jan.2017 10:11am

      Oh and as a PS – this isn’t an excuse to hear from the Fixed link Peoples Liberation Army faction with the usual spouting of guff and complete cobblers that has no relevance but gets chucked in regardless……as someone who sees what the traffic is like around your mainland tunnel exit I’d rather take my chance even with a dodgy hover.

  3. Margate Girl


    11.Jan.2017 12:26pm

    Hear hear on praise for the ground staff. They have to take a lot of flack from angry customers.

    In my experience, they always remain helpful and jolly.

  4. retired hack


    11.Jan.2017 4:14pm

    A word of warning for anyone who’s bought an online train ticket which includes Hover, and may think they have a reservation on one of the surviving crossings. They haven’t.
    I had this today in response to my query:
    “All rail tickets do not have reservations attached to them with Hovertravel. The itinerary provided by SWT (South West Trains) gives the best time to travel on the Hover, however does not provide you with a reservation. In order for us to provide you with a ticket which is reserved against your train tickets, you will need to present the tickets at the terminal at Ryde, have a paper ticket issued against the train ticket and the back of the train ticket stamped to indicate that the Hover portion of the train ticket has been used. (This means that it has been transferred onto a paper ticket for the Hover only to be assured of a seat on the crossings you require). This cannot be done over the phone, or online. It can only be done at the terminal when the tickets are presented.”
    I have to say that the response was prompt and clear, if not entirely satisfactory in its content.

  5. electrickery


    11.Jan.2017 4:51pm

    Come on Guys. Hovertravel is making a serious effort to get this right, so cut them some slack. Can you think of another IW/mainland ferry company who would bend over backwards like this? Or indeed a bus company???

  6. Wise words


    11.Jan.2017 8:01pm

    I think hovertravel are doing the best they can in a bad situation yes it is annoying if they have messed up your travel plans but I would much rather they take them out of service and get the problems rectified and get them running as you would like them to safely. If time is an issue sorry to say this use the fastcat or get an earlier hover.

  7. Interesting that there are a few hovercraft for sale locally, including a certain BHT 130 (available for operation at short notice), and a couple of other familiar craft…

    http://www.griffonhoverwork.com/products-services/used-hovercraft.aspx

  8. robinpaine


    12.Jan.2017 9:26am

    If you want to read about real development problems get hold of a copy of ‘On a Cushion of Air’ which is the definitive history of the development of the hovercraft, in which Hovertravel features, together with all the small and giant SR.N4s built by the British Hovercraft Corporation.

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