After the Island Radio emailed Wightlink on various occasions, to ask for the return of the fastcats (a subject we had got a lot of comments about) this announcement is such good and welcome news. As the lifeblood school holiday and Autumn holiday season kicks in, a fast reliable passenger service is so needed. Thanks for finally listening to us, the travelling Islanders and holiday industry and I’m sure in no small part the nearly 2,500 signatures collected by Stuart Brown ‘s petition, well done to all.
Following increased demand from foot passengers, Wightlink is resuming FastCat sailings from Friday 31 July 2020.
There will be an hourly round-trip service from Portsmouth between 06:15 – 20:20 on weekdays and 07:15 – 20:20 on Saturdays and Sundays.
“We are looking forward to re-starting our passenger service between Portsmouth Harbour and Ryde Pier Head at the end of the month,” says Wightlink Chief Executive Keith Greenfield. “Although passenger numbers remain low, they are gradually rising and we believe it is the right time to bring back the service. Reintroducing FastCats will support Ryde’s economy and seasonal businesses by encouraging more day-trip visitors.”
Wightlink staff have been busy preparing the FastCats to start sailing again and are carrying out trial runs to test systems.
To stay Covid-safe, passenger numbers have been capped and capacity reduced to allow plenty of room on board each departure for social distancing. The catamarans are being cleaned to high standards and hand sanitisers are available. In line with Government regulations, customers and staff will wear face coverings in the passenger areas onboard and inside the terminals.
FastCat customers will need to pay for travel and parking by card or mobile device. They can buy tickets at the ports using ticket vending machines and online. Ticket offices will not be open initially. The Ryde Pier barrier charge will be suspended until the end of August.
Wightlink has been awarded the ‘We’re Good to Go’ mark by VisitBritain. It shows the company complies with all Government and public health guidance and has carried out the necessary risk assessments.
Keith Greenfield adds: “Wightlink has worked closely with the Isle of Wight Council’s Transport Infrastructure Board (including the other cross-Solent operators) to make sure the Isle of Wight received the ferry services it needed throughout the crisis. Due to increased demand, I am pleased that we are now able to announce the reopening of our Fast Cat service between Portsmouth and Ryde.
“Like many other travel businesses, Wightlink has made substantial losses this year due to Covid 19 but, as usual, we still need to spend millions of pounds on vessel and port maintenance this winter to ensure all our services are available in 2021. This is the reason we have been slowly reintroducing services only as demand grows, to avoid further losses.
“We are keeping the situation under constant review and will continue to adjust service levels in line with demand as we go through the rest of the year.”
As all cross-Solent routes will be operating from Friday 31 July, the agreement between Wightlink, Red Funnel and Hovertravel to accept foot passenger tickets on each other’s services will end. Customers should ensure they book with the operator they intend to travel with.