Tue. Nov 24th, 2020

Isle of Wight Observer News

The Island's Free Newspaper

Red Funnel to temporarily suspend Red Jet service

4 min read

In alignment with the IoW Council’s minimum service requirements, Red Funnel Ferries has announced it will be making further changes to its service and is to temporarily cease operating its Hi-Speed Red Jet service until further notice, effective Saturday 18 April.

Red Funnel has taken this decision due to the ongoing reduction in demand and the need to maintain the resilience of its operation. Passengers will be able to travel on the vehicle ferry service which will still be running 12 round trips per day (instead of 15), to the following timetable:

  • Departing Southampton: 03:00, 06:00, 07:30, 09:00, 10:30, 12:00, 13:30, 15:00, 16:30, 18:00, 21:00, 23:55
  • Departing East Cowes: 01:30, 04:30, 07:30, 09:00, 10:30, 12:00, 13:30, 15:00, 16:30, 18:00, 19:30, 22:30

Red Funnel is directly reaching out to all season ticket holders and those Red Jet foot passengers continuing to travel for essential purposes and will offer appropriate support based on those customers’ individual circumstances. Red Funnel and Hovertravel are also working together to accept future foot passenger tickets from both companies on any scheduled sailings.

Due to the very low volumes of passengers still travelling, there are no concerns about overcrowding on the vehicle ferries and Red Funnel will continue to support best practices for social distancing. In order to achieve this, the 18:00 Southampton and 19:30 East Cowes sailings will revert to standard sailing types, while the 15:00 Southampton and 16:30 East Cowes sailings will now become “vehicle-deck only” sailings.

Red Funnel will continue to review the opportunities to add more of these sailing types depending on booking and traffic patterns and will continue to announce the next day’s vehicle-deck only sailings the day before, as it has been for the last few weeks.

The 21:00 Southampton and 22:30 East Cowes vehicle deck only sailings will also remain as-is.

To further assist in ensuring there is adequate space to accommodate any additional demand on the vehicle ferries, Red Funnel is adding two additional round-trip, freight-only sailings via the Red Kestrel.

The service reduction announcement comes as customer demand for Red Funnel’s Red Jet service continues to dramatically decrease as a result of COVID-19, with the public heeding the government’s guidance on non-essential travel as the lockdown continues.

In line with the reduced Red Funnel service, the Quayconnect bus service will also cease on Saturday 18 April.

Fran Collins, CEO of Red Funnel, said: “We have maintained the Red Jet sailings for as long as possible, but with no change likely in the current government guidance regarding non-essential travel, we’ve had to make the tough decision to suspend this service. This is one of the hardest decisions we have ever had to take at Red Funnel and not one that we make lightly.

“However, it remains my duty to protect our passengers, our staff and the Island in this ongoing global crisis and, given the very low levels of demand that are unlikely to change any time soon, this is a necessary step to ensure that we can maintain a resilient service to the island. We have discussed the islands requirements at length with the IoW Council and I am grateful to it for all its support and input into arriving at this difficult decision.

“I am confident that the revised, more efficient timetable will allow us to continue to maintain critical transportation service for key workers and those who need to travel for essential reasons, as well as continue to support the ongoing flow of critical freight and supplies to the Island at this time.

“I truly hope our customers understand why we’ve had to take this decision. We held out as long as we could and as you can imagine, it will be a significant change for us here at Red Funnel. I’d like to publicly acknowledge the efforts of our staff also, who continue to be incredibly supportive and resilient throughout this extremely challenging time and remain committed to ensuring our passengers have the best experience possible. We hope this suspension of the Red Jet service won’t last for long and we look forward to resuming our Hi-Speed operation as soon as possible.”

Red Funnel reminds customers that all ferry travel should be essential and in line with government guidelines only.
Any season ticket holders that have not been travelling are reminded that season tickets will not lose value, as Red Funnel will extend the expiration accordingly.

Isle of Wight MP, ‘Bob’ said: “I would like to reassure Islanders that the ferry companies are working together to ensure lifeline services continue.

“The reduction in ferry services has been decided following discussion with the Department for Transport and the NHS on the Island. The new timetables will provide a minimum level of service whilst ensuring health and essential needs are met.”

Christopher Garnett, chairman of the Isle of Wight Transport Infrastructure Board, said: “Following extensive discussions last week the board fully supports the decisions by Red Funnel and Hovertravel to reduce their services to the minimum level that will sustain the lifeline services to the Island. These changes follow the announcement last week by Wightlink on its services.

“The changes are slight reductions in Red Funnel’s car ferry service, and the total withdrawal of the remaining peak hour Red Jet services.

“The Hovertravel reduction relates to weekend services only, and weekday services will remain unchanged from the current timetable.

“Hovertravel will now be the sole provider of the fast foot passenger service linking the Island to the mainland, between Ryde and Southsea.

“We fully endorse these changes to ensure the maintenance of services for essential travel during these very difficult times.

“The operators are making incredible efforts on behalf of the Island while under extremely challenging financial pressures. All parties are working closely with the government to ensure that services can be maintained to ensure the Island remains resilient.

“We are now at the minimum service that we have said to the government that the Island needs to keep it going.”