Coronavirus: Isle of Wight ferry firms agree reduced timetables

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image copyrightWightlink
image captionWightlink is reducing the number of car ferry sailings on its Portsmouth to Fishbourne route

Ferry sailings across the Solent are being reduced to a "skeleton service" amid the coronavirus crisis, operators have announced.

Wightlink, Red Funnel and Hovertravel jointly agreed new limited timetables between Portsmouth and Southampton and the Isle of Wight.

The companies said there had been an "almost total drop" in passenger demand as well as reduced freight volumes.

They said the new timetables would maintain "lifeline" services.

Wightlink suspended its Lymington-Yarmouth car ferry route last week and is set to reduce its Portsmouth to Fishbourne service.

It is also suspending its Portsmouth to Ryde Fast Cat service.

image captionThe Red Jet timetable on the Southampton-West Cowes route is being co-ordinated with NHS workers' shift patterns

Red Funnel is reducing Red Jet catamaran sailings between Southampton and West Cowes at non-peak times and coordinating its timetable with NHS workers' shift patterns.

Hovertravel has stepped up its "on demand" service to allow approved organisations to order a hovercraft to move staff and medical supplies across the Solent at any time.

All tickets will be valid on rival companies' crossings.

The changes were agreed at a meeting of the Isle of Wight Transport Infrastructure Board earlier.

Chairman Christopher Garnett said they would maintain "full resilience" for the island.

"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," he said.

Isle of Wight MP Bob Seeley said the companies were "behaving very responsibly".

"We do however need a skeleton ferry service to ensure food and medical supplies can get to the island," he said.

"We also need to make sure that key workers can come here to support the NHS and other vital services that keep people alive and safe."

Travellers on cross-Solent services have already been allowed to remain in vehicles to maintain social distancing with special dispensation announced on 19 March.

image copyrightWightlink
image captionWightlink had already suspended the Lymington-Yarmouth because of a fall in passenger numbers

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