Wightlink, the Isle of Wight ferry service, has seen a dramatic slump in demand due to government advice on self-isolation and working from home in light of the Coronavirus pandemic.
The drop in revenue for the firm comes in the same week that the regulatory body for the island’s ferry services, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), performed a u-turn to rule that travellers can now remain in their cars for the duration of the 45-minute journey to reduce chances of viral infection, despite claims that vehicle decks on the boats do not meet required safety standards.
On Friday morning, the BBC reported that the normally bustling 08.15 Red Jet crossing from Cowes to Southampton was, ‘almost devoid of passengers as it left today because of the coronavirus outbreak‘.
Due to significant rises in staff absences, Saturday also saw Wightlink cancel six of its regular journeys from Lymington and Yarmouth.
Bob Seely, MP for the Isle of Wight’s 141,538 residents, commented:
In regards to travel, I said yesterday we needed two things to happen now; to allow people to stay in cars and to enable the ferry firms to talk to each other. The first, to allow people to stay in cars, is now happening. This is important and gives reassurance to everybody, but especially high-risk groups and those travelling to the mainland for medical treatment and whom may have lowered immunity. The second, to relax competition law to allow the ferry firms to talk to each other to enable resilience planning, we are still working on. I want movement from Government on this shortly. I want to reassure Islands that all of us in positions of responsibility are working together to make the Island’s case and to lessen the impact of this serious situation on the Island and on Islanders.