Red Funnel respond to criticism that social distancing was ‘impossible’ on ‘packed ferry’

A commuter tweeted that it was impossible to social distance on the car ferry yesterday morning. Red Funnel respond

Red Funnel Red Osprey

Just over a month ago during the second round of Coronavirus lockdown measures, Red Funnel temporarily ceased their high-speed RedJet service, forcing those passengers who were still commuting to mainland jobs to use the vehicle ferry (or Hovercraft) instead.

Five weeks later and on Tuesday morning commuter Bethanie William tweeted

OnTheWight got in touch with Red Funnel for their response to the claim the 7.30am ferry was so packed it was impossible to social distance.

RF: Passengers were “just 14% of the usual capacity”
A spokesperson for Red Funnel told OnTheWight,

“Compared to the same time two weeks ago, before the latest government changes on exercise, meeting with one person from a different household and the opening of more businesses, Red Funnel carried only 28 more passengers on the East Cowes to Southampton 07:30 crossing yesterday morning (19 May 2020).

“Red Funnel has reduced its capacity by 72% to allow for a maximum of 250 passengers at any one time – a reduction of 645 passengers from the normal limit of 895. On the 07:30 crossing this morning we carried 127 passengers, which is just over 50% of the new, reduced capacity and just 14% of the usual capacity, so it was well within our ability to achieve social distancing onboard.

Return of the RedJet?
Red Funnel say there has not been a significant increase in passengers to reintroduce the RedJet service. They say,

“With specific regard to the return of the Red Jet service, Red Funnel is still advocating that the public adhere to essential travel only, and at this time customer demand remains relatively low.

“We are confident that there has not yet been a significant increase in passenger numbers in relation to our revised capacity.

“As such, we are still able to support the Island with the minimum service levels as agreed with the Isle of Wight Council and Department for Transport, and at this time will continue to maintain our current, revised service of operation until further notice.”

Passengers reminded to social distance
The Red Funnel spokesperson finished by saying,

“We remind our customers of the need to actively engage and cooperate with Red Funnel to achieve social distancing and encourage passengers to wear a face covering for added protection and, most importantly, to only travel if essential. Social distancing measures include:

  1. Keeping as much space between yourself and others as possible.
  2. Observing all social distancing signage.
  3. Moving around the vessel from time to time and avoiding spending long periods of time next to others who are not from your household.
  4. Spending a portion of your journey on outer passenger decks, where passengers are likely to find space is more widely available.
  5. Checking all available A-deck and B-deck lounges to seek out the most open space.
  6. And sitting directly next to those in your travel group and avoiding putting extra space between yourself and members of your own household. This space is needed to maintain distance between passengers who are NOT members of the same household.

For more information see the Covid-19 FAQs on the Red Funnel Website.

Image: © Paul Brown

Wednesday, 20th May, 2020 8:39am



Filed under: Ferry, Island-wide, Isle of Wight News, Top story, Travel

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17 Comments on "Red Funnel respond to criticism that social distancing was ‘impossible’ on ‘packed ferry’"

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I have travelled on both WL and RF, and it’s not as bad as some people are making out. I also find it very suspicious that Bethanie Williams is a personal friend of Carl Feeney so the complaint on Twitter is an obvious set up. Get it through to your thick skull Feeney, a tunnel will not happen. You have been trying for a number of years… Read more »
Justin Case
I am required to be contact with highly vulnerable people. Having travelled this route twice for urgent reasons, I was appalled to be herded into the ship’s saloon instead of keeping safely distanced in my car. At least one member of staff had little regard for distancing or face masks and one of the passengers had a persistent dry cough. In an enclosed area, that is a… Read more »

red funnel ferry just disgorged cars complete with bike racks and car roof storage – probably on a day trip!
Have no doubt that it represents 14% capacity as the company claims and that legally they cannot restrict bookings.


The solution is very simple, don’t commute.

If you work on the Mainland, or can’t work from home on the island, then stay over there, don’t travel backwards and forwards


What about those medical staff coming here to help us? Works both ways.

I am again amazed . I’m aware of two friends who work in emergency services who are required to commute daily. I also have a doctor friend who commutes to work on the Island. I have 2 elderly friends who are waiting to travel due to cancer treatment or operations which cannot happen at St Marys. I wish people would be a bit kinder when commentating about… Read more »
Highway to Hell
What a ridiculous comment. Are you retired per chance? 1. How are those providing critical services meant to ‘stay away’ if all the hotels etc are closed? 2. Some of us have been travelling to and from the big isle since this pandemic started (and before, for quite some time)and most of us have been following the safety provisions put in place for everyone’s benefit. So, if… Read more »
Well done to Onthewight for asking these questions. Obvious questions that other media appear reticent to broach. Of course privately owned public transport is completely at the whim of profit motivated board directors.. including the RF Director Patrick Seely – cousin of our MP Bob Seely. Let’s face it. A thoroughly unhygienic ferry with various steer stairwells with dirty handrails etc is a hotbed for virus transmission.… Read more »


Benny C

Well, that didn’t happen pre lock down, did it! Read the information, you are misquoting facts. That won’t help your cause, it just undermines your credibility in front of a significant number of readers.

Where is your evidence that the ferries are ‘thoroughly unhygienic’? Have you been on board to witness them not cleaning? At present social media is full of people shouting that holiday makers are flocking over. Please do enlighten me how a fixed link would stop this? If the ferries can’t police it and refuse travel what rights would a fixed link have? I would’ve thought it would… Read more »

Why not play the longer game and wait for the arrival of viable transporter technology?


I think that transporter technology may be the shorter game than waiting for a tunnel.

Mr Feeney There are arguments both for and against a fixed link but none of them are currently worth engaging in as there never was the money for it and in the economic downturn that will follow this pandemic it would have a snowball’s chance in hell of being funded. It’s also completely irrelevant to any discussions about how to safely travel right now. You said, “The… Read more »
“The will save lives in many ways.” Pray tell us how your web site will save lives?? Accepting what you meant was the mythical tunnel that seems to occupy your every thought – that’s a bold claim to make. The sort of thing that needs to be backed up by a feasibility study perhaps? One you could easily crowdfund, given how wildly popular your subterranean dreams… Read more »

Seeing as funding for a feasibility study has now been secured to look at the re-opening of railway branch lines to Newport and Ventnor, Feeney can now kiss goodbye to the tunnel.


It’s all about maximising profit and minimising costs. Health and safety is not and will never be a priority. Fact