New ferry plans take a big step forward

Possible design for the Island-built all-electric ferryPossible design for the Island-built all-electric ferry

Amid widespread concern about the costs, reliability and declining services offered by Red Funnel and Wightlink, a locally-owned company is offering a glimmer of hope.

The vision for a new Portsmouth-Ryde service from Wight Gateway Limited (WGL) is fundamentally different from existing services, because the plans include attracting local investors to share in the ownership of the new ferry operating company, Rydeport 2000, which will provide additional cost-effective and reliable cross-Solent links.

WGL have signed a memorandum of understanding with Portsmouth International Port who will provide a dedicated berth for the new service.

In further commitments to the Island, it is envisaged that the three new all-electric ferries will be built locally and powered by a dedicated Island-based solar farm. They will carry around 60-80 cars and small vans, but no buses or lorries.

The company would also welcome regulation of the services it offers, to provide passengers with security over the frequency and cost of crossings.

The company will now be working with the IW Council, local MPs and the government to secure National Significant Infrastructure Project designation which would enable planning permission for the new Ryde terminal to be fast-tracked.

Director of WGL, Danny Fisher, said: “We have been working on this exciting new project for almost 10 years now. Securing a dedicated berth in Portsmouth is a significant step forward.

“We want this new ferry service to bring benefits for Islanders and also give them the opportunity to invest in and own it. The timeframe will depend very heavily on planning permission for the new port, which will be build on land which we own, but we are hopeful that we could start sailings within two to three years if we are successful in getting the support we are seeking which will speed up the planning process.”

A recently commissioned independent passenger survey on cross-Solent ferry usage confirmed that there would be strong customer support for the introduction of the proposed new ferry services.

Leader of the IW Council, Phil Jordan welcomed the news. He added: “I am incredibly supportive of this fantastic new initiative which is bringing forward vital connectivity options for Islanders and visitors alike.

“This is a much-needed project that will help us as an Island community to reinvigorate businesses, tourism, connectivity, NHS and much more. Travel options to the mainland are a vital service that Islanders want, need, and deserve. I therefore welcome and support this additional cross Solent travel opportunity”.