The Isle of Wight Passenger Ferry timetable explained by Wightlink

In the week that has seen over 3,000 people sign a petition to encourage Wightlink to bring back night sailings on the Ryde to Portsmouth FastCats, we have called on the ferry operator for a response.

We asked Wightlink why they removed the last crossings and if they would consider bringing them back.

Keith Greenfield, CEO of Wightlink, gave us a long answer, which is in full here:

Why Wightlink is saying no to crossings later tonight

I fully understand that people want FastCat services to work later in the evening. At Wightlink we want to offer as many services as possible and we have two-person catamarans that we would love to use all the time.

In 2019 we ran a trial of all-night operating FastCats and in 2020 we also planned to launch a three-boat summer service on our Yarmouth to Lymington route which had to be canceled due to Covid-19. We are therefore very committed to expanding all of our services where viable. After spending over £1.5m on refurbishing our Portsmouth Harbor Terminal earlier this year, we really want to see more sailings and more customers on our FastCat service.

Commuters have always been the mainstay of the Ryde Pier-Portsmouth Harbor FastCats. In line with the rail industry, there are still 40% fewer foot passengers traveling on the route during ‘peak hours’ and overall 32% fewer on all services. By contrast, vehicle traffic has returned to pre-Covid levels this summer.

Unlike the rail industry, Wightlink relies entirely on ticket revenue and not taxpayer funding; that means our services have to pay their way. The working hours of our FastCat crews are fully utilized to maintain the current schedule and to extend the evening we would need to hire two additional crews and shore staff for what we know to be relatively few additional passengers each day at present. Although this is a point which I am sure will be disputed, we have detailed knowledge of travel habits and are studying them closely.

We have looked at other options to extend the timetable in the evening, such as starting later, such as removing the first or two departures, 0545 and 0645 from Ryde. We believe these are vital commuter services so we have rejected this option, but I would be happy to hear if public opinion disagrees. Another option would be to create another two hour gap in the afternoon so that we can cover some additional sailing in the evening. Again, our feeling was that this option would not be acceptable. If public opinion says otherwise, we would be happy to reconsider this option.

Wightlink is working hard to develop tourism on the road to compensate for the drop in foot passengers since Covid. We want to get to a point where FastCats are running later and more frequently and review trends weekly for signs that we can run additional services. I can promise that we are looking at all options and additional services will be added as soon as we are confident of sustainable passenger numbers.

We have a 24 hour car ferry service just a few minutes walk from Portsmouth Harbor train station. There are departures at 10.15pm and 11.59pm and the 11.59pm is served on arrival at Fishbourne by a Southern Vectis bus which takes passengers to Ryde. I know it’s not that convenient, but it’s a way to come home after a night out. We also have parking at Fishbourne for pedestrians who can use the car ferry in either direction. FastCat tickets and subscriptions are always accepted on our car ferry.

Everyone wants to see more FastCats and later nobody more than me.

Harriet’s petition can be found on Change.org

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