The Isle of Wight’s transport infrastructure board has confirmed that cross-Solent ferry operators are continuing to work together over the phased reintroduction of services as the easing of lockdown develops.
It follows the announcement last week of the reintroduction of Red Funnel’s passenger Red Jet service between Cowes and Southampton and the news this morning of the reinstatement of the Yarmouth to Lymington route from 17th July.
Stewart: Cannot speak highly enough of the work of all the ferry companies
Council leader, Dave Stewart, 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.”
The reintroduction of the remaining key service is subject to ongoing and detailed discussions involving the operators and the board – which has been working closely and collaboratively throughout the pandemic.
The board meets regularly to review ferry services with operators Hovertravel, Red Funnel and Wightlink, and is currently focusing in particular on the developing travel situation and the expected increased requirement for services over the summer months.
Garnett: Closely monitoring passenger volumes
Board chairman, Christopher Garnett, said:
“Throughout this difficult period, the board has monitored car and passenger volumes to the Island very closely.
“We continue to do this alongside the operators, and as soon as we see any real increase in foot passenger demand, the reintroduction of the other services will follow.”
No case to reintroduce Fastcat
However, just at present there is no case for reintroducing the Fast Cat service with the current foot travel demand being just 15 per cent of normal levels.
To reintroduce the service at this time could put additional financial pressure on Hovertravel, which has continuously maintained the Island’s only passenger-only ferry link (between Ryde and Southsea) throughout the lockdown, the board has warned.
Government support for cross-Solent travel must remain in place
The board adds that it is essential that the current government support for cross-Solent travel remains in place to ensure lifeline services are maintained, to be able to react quickly to introduce extra capacity and to secure the long-term survival of all routes.
Greenfield: This is a marathon not a sprint
Keith Greenfield, Wightlink chief executive, said:
“I am incredibly proud that under the leadership of the transport infrastructure board, Wightlink and the other cross-Solent operators have worked together to provide a timetable of services which, although loss making, has kept the Island lifeline for essential goods and key worker and health travel throughout the crisis so far.
“We have now announced the reintroduction of the Yarmouth-Lymington route but as yet, with low volumes of passengers the Fast Cat service is not viable and would increase losses for both Wightlink and Hovertravel.
“This is a marathon not a sprint and we need to ensure all operators can survive financially, fund their refit programmes in the autumn and protect jobs and services for the future.”
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