Ferry operators Wightlink and Red Funnel have today reassured concerned Island residents that they have not increased their sailings or capacity to accommodate more visitors to the Isle of Wight over this Bank Holiday weekend.
Wightlink responded to the worries of one resident in particular who posted on social media that he had to travel to the mainland for an emergency hospital appointment earlier today, but when trying to book a 2pm or 3pm return he was told: “Sorry, we are fully booked until 5pm because it is Bank Holiday.”
The man went on to say on his post: “Thought we were still locked down and most places shut. If they want us to use the coronavirus (track and trace) app properly, how can it if mainlanders are coming over?”
But a spokesperson for Wightlink said: “We are currently only operating on one route between Fishbourne and Portsmouth and with a much-reduced number of sailings and overall capacity. This reduced capacity may at times mean people are unable to travel when they need to.
“The majority of our traffic is still related to freight transport and key workers. We are seeing a small increase in traffic, in line with the recent changes to Government advice on travel, but this increase is small and volumes are a fraction of what we would expect at this time of year. This is also mostly confined to week-day traffic and to freight vehicles, business travel and commuters.
“We are continuing to work with IW Council and Visit IOW to repeat the message in our communications that people should only travel in accordance with Government guidance.”
Fran Collins, CEO for Red Funnel, said: “Over the Bank Holiday weekend, Red Funnel will be continuing to operate a reduced vehicle ferry service as it maintains its lifeline link for essential travel only. Our advice is to stay safe, stay local – dream now, sail later.
“At the time of writing, despite the long weekend and expected fair weather, customer bookings remain low across the four-day period (Friday, May 22 to Monday, May 25). Compared to the same four days last week (May 15 to May 18 ), our Southampton to East Cowes route has an increase of just two to three bookings per crossing.
“These increases are minimal and therefore, we’re confident we will not see a huge increase in traffic travelling to the Island this weekend. As accommodation providers, hospitality, leisure businesses and attractions remain closed, it is simply not the ideal time for people to visit the Island.
“While we don’t know for sure, we speculate that the small increase in traffic may be a result of the government’s easing of friends and family meetings in outdoor spaces. Although the government also advises people to avoid public transportation for the purpose of these reunions, it is not illegal to travel for this reason, despite the fact that we discourage it.
“As we have for many weeks, we are continuing to actively and strongly discourage all non-essential travel on our ferries in-line with current government guidelines. While we’re not in a position to challenge the reasons for our customers travelling, we hope that Islanders and the mainland public alike will continue to adhere to the official guidance to help protect our staff and wider communities.