Three Isle of Wight ferry companies are to be given a £6.5 million grant by the government to keep them afloat during the pandemic, on top of the £4.9 million they have already been given. Wightlink, Red Funnel and Hovertravel have all seen a significant decline in passengers since Covid-19 first broke out, putting them under financial pressure to continue running.
The companies, which typically run services for tourist and commuter travel as well as for residents, have been struggling since the pandemic began. Wightlink have stated some of their ferries have been known to transport fewer than 20 passengers at once, but are desperately needed to continue the flow of medical services and essential supplies like food and medicine onto the island.
Red Funnel, which have suffered 50 job losses since the pandemic began, have said that the government grant will be helpful in maintaining the ferries’ essential services, but do not expect that it “will be enough to offset the growing losses” caused by coronavirus.
Wightlink have said that they are disappointed the pay-out will not be enough to reinstate their Ryde Pier Head route which they were forced to suspend earlier in the pandemic.
The government has additionally allowed a temporary suspension of a competition law in order to allow the companies to collaborate to provide the best transportation for the islands needs as possible. The three have come together to produce a limited, “lifeline” timetable between Portsmouth and Southampton and the Isle of Wight so the island is not isolated from the mainland.
The Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Steve Barclay, has said: “These ferry services are essential to everyday life on the Isle of Wight, and this further package of funding will help ensure residents can continue to access healthcare and essential goods and services.”
Associate Director of Research & Improvement at Solent NHS, Sarah Williams, also commented: “Within the NHS and care system, we consider Hovertravel, Wightlink and Red Funnel part of our critical infrastructure and have been struck by the extra efforts they’ve gone to in supporting us in a COVID safe manner. The adaptability, positivity and cheer that they do this with is something that we won’t ever forget and for which we are extremely grateful.”