A petition has been launched to push cross-Solent operator Wightlink to reinstate its pre-COVID timetable on its Ryde-Portsmouth catamaran service, with over 1,500 people already putting their names to the cause since yesterday (Sunday).
Many things have returned to normal since the COVID pandemic but the Fastcat service is not one of them, with residents on both sides of the Solent reinforcing calls to bring back later crossings.
As it stands, the last Fastcat sailing from Portsmouth is at 20:20. This means, for example, an Islander who travels to London for a day needs to leave Waterloo Station on the 18:00 train to catch the last FastCat crossing. Any later and the only option is to wait for the 22:15 car ferry sailing to Fishbourne, which brings you in at a different port to where you left the Island in the morning.
The petition, launched by local parish councillor Harriet Hadfield and addressed to Keith Greenfield, CEO of Wightlink, has a simple ask: later evening sailings on the FastCat – in both directions. There are calls for up to 3 later sailings including at least 1 after 22:00, every day of the week. These should be timed to align with trains arriving in Portsmouth Harbour station.
Hariett decided to start this petition, which went live on Sunday morning, after taking a 22:15 car ferry in late September with over 60 foot passengers onboard. She had to get a taxi to the car ferry as she felt unsafe in Portsmouth and then had to get another taxi from Fishbourne back to her car in Ryde.
Wightlink has said it is currently monitoring demand – but has not revealed any plans to bring back later crossings anytime soon.
You can sign the petition at https://www.change.org/p/isleofwight-residents-to-wightlink-we-need-later-evening-fastcat-sailings-please.
Harriet Hadfield, who is a parish councillor in Nettlestone and Seaview, says:
“I’ve been totally overwhelmed – but not that surprised – with the speed in which we’ve gathered more than 1500 signatures. It just shows the strength of feeling over this issue and how many Islanders, and indeed mainlanders, have been affected by the reduced FastCat timetable since COVID.
“The petition asks people to add their experiences in the comments section so that I can collate the case studies for Wightlink – in the hope that the real-life issues Islanders face will make a difference.
“This petition will be sent to Keith Greenfield, Wightlink CEO when we’ve reached enough signatures. I will also send it to Bob Seely MP plus Portsmouth MPs such as Penny Mordaunt who we know is sympathetic to the issues of cross-Solent travel.
“As a local journalist via my 5-Stories newsletter and Island Stories podcast, I receive so many messages from subscribers about the problems of cross-Solent travel. It’s undoubtedly the number 1 issue for Islanders and I believe vital to the sustainability of our Island economically and socially”.
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