The return of Wightlink’s Ryde to Portsmouth Fast Cat services from 31 July has been welcomed by the leader of the Isle of Wight Council and the chairman of the Isle of Wight Transport Infrastructure Board.
Council leader, Councillor Dave Stewart, and board chairman, Christopher Garnett, said today’s (Tuesday) announcement completed the picture of a return to service of all Island routes.
Councillor Stewart said in particular he hoped the move would result in an upturn in trade for businesses in Ryde — helping to keep people employed and save jobs.
The announcement also falls on the same day that Red Funnel announced it would be doubling the number of daily available crossings on its Hi-Speed Red Jet service between Cowes and Southampton, effective this Saturday, 25 July.
Councillor Stewart said: “We can now look forward to the summer knowing our Island is fully open for business.
“I appreciate the challenges that have faced our ferry and hovercraft companies during the Covid-19 crisis. Like all commercial businesses, they too have had to plan their return in a financially manageable way.
“I wish to thank all those who have campaigned for the return of the Fast Cat and thank Wightlink for taking the necessary steps to start up the service once again.
“This is good news and means Island visitors and residents whether travelling by car or by foot now have the full range of choice. I know services will be limited and will be demand driven — but it is another sign of the Island being on the road to recovery.”
The transport infrastructure board at its recent meeting noted the steady growth in car traffic, but remains concerned at the sluggish state of the foot passenger market.
Mr Garnett, said: “The board is hopeful that with the new, more positive messaging about using public transport and school holidays we will see real growth in foot passenger numbers.
“A high degree of uncertainty surrounds the state of the cross-Solent market as we look to the autumn and winter with the ongoing effects of Covid-19 on travel. The board will watch developments very carefully and will need to work closely with the operators on service levels, which may need to change in line with demand.
“All operators have been heavily impacted financially and need to manage their costs carefully to protect routes and services for 2021.”
He added: “The cooperation of all the members of the board over the past five months has been first class and has now got us to the position where all the routes to the Island will be open by the end of July.”
MP Bob Seely said: “I welcome the announced return of the FastCats between Ryde and Portsmouth. This is not before time. We must now all work together to get people back to work and open up the Island to visitors once again.
“With the restrictions eased enabling people to travel, stay overnight and use public transport, we need to encourage visitors back and make their travel and their stay here as safe and enjoyable as possible.
“Island businesses have put a great deal of effort in to making themselves compliant with public health guidance and a significant amount of work has gone in to promoting the Island as a welcoming destination for a staycation. We don’t want that to go to waste by making it difficult for visitors to cross the Solent.
“Many tourism-dependent businesses in the East Wight, particularly those in Ryde, Sandown and Shanklin need day trippers to boost their income. The resumption of the FastCat connection will help achieve this.”