The Isle of Wight Transport Infrastructure Board has announced that a huge drop in demand for both passenger and freight ferry crossings has led to a dramatic reduction in services from both Wightlink and Red Funnel, leaving just a skeleton service.
The Board claimed in a statement that the revised car ferry schedule would ensure the ‘demand for cross-Solent travel by emergency services, freight operators and other essential travellers will be met’.
Wightlink immediately announced that it was completely suspending the Ryde to Portsmouth Fast Cat Service on Monday (April 6) and cutting the Fishbourne to Portsmouth car ferry service to a two-hourly service from Tuesday. The company has already suspended the Yarmouth to Lymington service.
The cuts announced by Red Funnel were less extensive, but off-peak sailings on the Red Jet have been axed, leaving just four crossings each way in the mornings and five in the evenings, which the company said is in line with the needs of NHS staff and other key workers. The Red Funnel vehicle ferry will continue to run to its published schedule.
Hovertravel did not announce any cuts to its 10-minute crossing, which not only carries foot passengers, but is also used by the Royal Mail and brings all pharmaceuticals to the Island. If the hovercraft service is unable to run due to weather or technical reasons the number 9 service from Southern Vectis will run via Wightlink’s Fishbourne terminals providing a foot passenger connection between Newport and Ryde.
Christopher Garnett, chairman of the Isle of Wight Transport Infrastructure Board, said: “These measures have the full support of the Board and will ensure essential, effective and robust cross-Solent ferry services can continue at this very difficult time. The Board and operators are working closely together to ensure full resilience for the Island is maintained in all key areas.
“These are lifeline services for the Island, bringing in all our supplies and freight – including food and fuel – and providing key connectivity in areas such as mainland travel for hospital appointments, whether on foot or by ambulance.
“Each of the operators continues to put in enormous efforts to maintain these services in these unprecedented times, including the promotion of ‘essential travel
Southern Vectis has also announced cuts to its timetabled bus service, but said they were protecting key worker journeys.