Petition over Wightlink axed island night sailings

Wightlink ferry Wightlink said the cuts were due to adverse weather and rising fuel costs

A letter has been published online in a bid to force an Isle of Wight ferry firm to continue its night sailings.

Wightlink announced that it would cut the number of sailings on its three routes across the Solent from January.

In the letter resident Chris Whitehouse accused the company of "strangling" the island's economic lifeblood.

The chief executive of Wightlink said the changes were in "response to the challenges which our business faces in today's difficult economic climate".

Under the plans there would be no sailings from Portsmouth to Fishbourne between 00:00 and 03:00 GMT.

The last ferry from Lymington to Yarmouth, which currently has a 24-hour service, would leave at 21:05 and resume at 05:45.

The catamaran would run from Portsmouth to Ryde from 05:15 to 22:15.

In the letter addressed to Wightlink's chief executive, Mr Whitehouse from Newport, accused the company of "gradually tightening their fingers around the island's neck and strangling its economic lifeblood".

'Poorly used'

Mr Whitehouse said: "Many Island residents are not only adding their names, but also leaving comments explaining just why these moves are unacceptable."

Wightlink said some night time sailings were poorly used, with staff often outnumbering passengers.

The company said it was not intending to make compulsory staff cuts but workers on its Portsmouth-Ryde, Portsmouth-Fishbourne and Lymington-Yarmouth crossings would be offered redundancy to absorb the losses.

Wightlink said the changes would help "put the company on a secure financial footing" as it looks to invest in new ships it will soon require for the Portsmouth-Fishbourne route.

It blamed recent poor weather, rising fuel costs and increased regulation on the need to make cuts.

Following the cuts announcement, chief executive Russell Kew said: "Wightlink has a long and proud history of serving the Isle of Wight, and we are determined to protect that heritage."

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