OnTheWight yesterday (Monday) highlighted a new online petition which calls for Wightlink to use a charter boat to continue twice hourly high-speed service to Portsmouth from Ryde Pier during the annual refit of the FastCats.
The petition, set up by Natasha Lee, is starting it gain traction attracting close to another 100 signatures overnight.
“Sufficient capacity to carry all season ticket holders”
In response to questions put to Wightlink, a spokesperson for Isle of Wight ferry company told OnTheWight,
“Wightlink spends more than £600,000 a year on annual refits for its FastCats and further on routine maintenance on the Wight Ryders throughout the year.
“Dry docking takes place early in the year when fewer customers want to travel.
“As FastCats can carry up to 260 people on every crossing, there is sufficient capacity to carry all season ticket holders and regular commuters on an hourly service.”
“Most customers … preferred to use the remaining FastCat than the charter vessel”
They went on to add,
“Wightlink did not charter an additional vessel during refit in 2018 or 2019, as well as in 2020. In previous years, Wightlink found most customers who wanted to travel at this time preferred to use the remaining FastCat than the charter vessel.”
Call for reduced fares
The petition also stated that if a charter boat is not added, Wightlink should reduce the season ticket cost or compensate customers.
The spokesperson for Wightlink responded,
“We are sorry that on one occasion in January some Wightlink customers had to wait for the next crossing after another operator cancelled sailings and caused the Wightlink service to be busier than usual.
“Typically, fewer than one in 100 FastCat sailings are cancelled for any reason. During the worst of Storm Brendan this month, Wightlink’s FastCats and Fishbourne car ferries were the only cross-Solent services still running.
“A Wightlink annual season ticket costs £4.89 per day or £2.45 per crossing, if used 364 days per year. It can be used on any of our routes on more than 40,000 sailings a year and also includes four single car crossings and discounted parking.”
This response has raised several more questions, which OnTheWight has gone back to Wightlink with. We’ll update once we hear back.
Silence from MP
Isle of Wight MP, Bob Seely, who stated in October last year that he would be monitoring the service performance of cross-Solent operators, has failed to respond to OnTheWight’s questions.