Further cuts to Wightlink services - the Island deserves better.

Service cuts

Some of the content of the Wightlink statement regarding further cuts in services is disingenuous. The further diminution of services on the Lymington / Yarmouth services and the words regarding the St Helen once again demonstrates how Wightlink disassemble the truth. This is yet another story of failure and the Island deserves better.

Sent on behalf of: Russell Kew, Chief Executive

Dear Councillor

I’m writing to let you know about some changes we’re going to be making next year. These are being announced to our staff and customers today and I wanted you to be amongst the first to hear.

As you know, our long term plans for the business include two key factors. Firstly, we are modernising our fleet, and have already introduced five new ships within the last five years. Secondly, we need constantly to adapt our services to reflect customer demand. Recently this has included adding new late night sailings on our Ryde catamaran service and on weekend evenings at Yarmouth.

The changes we are announcing today are part of those long term plans.

Customer statistics reveal that the number of people using the Yarmouth-Lymington route has fallen by almost 15% in the last four years. Despite considerable price discounting, adapting our timetable to provide better train connections, improved punctuality and continued high reliability (the latest full year data shows that Wightlink has a superb reliability record, operating more than 99% of scheduled sailings on the Yarmouth-Lymington route, 90% of which depart within 5 minutes of timetable) there is a long term pattern of falling demand on the West Wight, with customers preferring to use other routes.

At the same time, the oldest ship in our fleet, St Helen, is becoming increasingly difficult and expensive to maintain. We believe it is vital to protect service levels and improve the customer experience on our busy 24 hour Portsmouth Fishbourne route where she currently operates.

We have therefore decided to retire St Helen in early 2015 and replace her on the Portsmouth-Fishbourne route with one of the three new Wight Class ships which currently operate between Lymington and Yarmouth. The ship we are relocating is used for just three round trips a day for half the year, providing just 8% of the capacity on the route, and for the majority of the year is currently unused.

We are committed to the long term future of our Yarmouth-Lymington route and believe these changes protect its viability. We know it is vital to many islanders as well as to the thousands of visitors which use it every year. There will be no changes to services between October and March and, throughout the summer, we will operate up to 34 sailings a day on an hourly service. There will be no changes to the first or last sailings of the day and we will continue to offer the late night sailings on key Fridays and Saturdays throughout the summer which we recently introduced in response to customer requests.

Using our fleet as efficiently as possible next year is vital if we are to continue our programme of modernisation and investment. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions or concerns.

Kind regards.
Chief Executive
Wightlink Limited

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