Wightlink is a ferry company operating routes across The Solent between Hampshire and the Isle of Wight in the south of England. It operates car ferries between Lymington and Yarmouth, and Portsmouth and Fishbourne and a fast passenger-only catamaran between Portsmouth Harbour and Ryde Pier. It is jointly owned by Basalt Infrastructure Partners and Fiera Infrastructure.

Company typeLimited Company
HeadquartersPortsmouth, Hampshire, England
Area served
Isle of Wight
Revenue£71 million (2022)
£28 million (2022)
£19 million (2022)
ParentBasalt Infrastructure Partners (50%)
Fiera Infrastructure (50%)
Websitewww.wightlink.co.uk Edit this at Wikidata
Footnotes / references

History edit

Wightlink's House Flag

Wightlink and its forerunners have provided ferry services to and from the Isle of Wight for more than 160 years.[2] In the early 19th century, ferries ran to the island from Lymington and Portsmouth. Later, steam ferries operated a circular route around Lymington, Yarmouth, Cowes, Ryde and Portsmouth. When the railway companies became involved, they concentrated on two direct routes, Lymington to Yarmouth and Portsmouth to Ryde.[2] Operation of the ferries was eventually moved under a separate subsidiary of the British Railways Board called Sealink.

In 1984 Sealink was sold to Sea Containers.[3][4] When Stena Line bought Sealink in 1990, the Isle of Wight ferries remained with Sea Containers, as Wightlink.[2] In June 1995 Wightlink was the subject of a management buyout.[5] In 2005 it was bought by the Macquarie European Infrastructure Fund.[2]

In 2005, a Wightlink car ferry featured briefly in the film Fragile starring Calista Flockhart. The ferry is shown very briefly in a wide-angle shot. Closer shots used Red Funnel's Red Osprey.[6]

In October 2006 Wightlink announced its intention to build two new ferries for the Yarmouth to Lymington route. These ships are slightly bigger than their predecessors, with extra vehicle space, but only accommodate 360 passengers compared to 500 on the older vessels. Wightlink later announced that a third new ferry would enter service in spring 2009. A dispute with some Lymington residents led to delay and threatened the viability of the route.[7][8] In November 2008, the service was reduced so only two ships were required, allowing for the delay in the introduction of the new vessels.[9] Sea trials were not complete by November 2008 and introduction became pressing with the expiry of safety certificates on the previous fleet. Wightlink proposed interim arrangements enabling them restricted use of the new ferries until the trials could be completed in full.[10]

The previous Wightlink logo, replaced at around the time the new ferries were arriving.

In March 2008 Wightlink revealed that an order had been placed with FBMA Marine to construct two new passenger catamarans for the Portsmouth to Ryde service, to replace the three craft currently employed. They entered service in 2009.

From May 2008 Wightlink introduced a fuel surcharge on all crossings, linked to the price of Brent Crude oil.[11] However, in November 2008 the surcharge dropped to zero following the sharp reduction in crude prices during the credit crunch and as of November 2009 was still at zero.

Wightlink planned to spend £17.5 million on improving its Portsmouth to Fishbourne route.[12] This involved remodelling the terminal facilities at both Fishbourne and Portsmouth. The flagship St Clare was to have its upper car deck adjusted so vehicles access it directly from on-shore ramps. Two of the older ferries were to be stretched in length by 12 metres, with upper car decks similar to St Clare's being added, replacing movable mezzanine decks. Of the remaining two ferries, St Catherine has been sold and St Helen was used mainly for freight until she too was sold.[13][14] As part of this investment project the reservations and ticketing system was replaced by CarRes from Carus.[15]

On 16 February 2015, Wightlink was sold by the Macquarie European Infrastructure Fund to Balfour Beatty Infrastructure Partners (BBIP).[16][17][18] On 15 May 2015, Wightlink announced a revised investment of £45 million to include the purchase a new ferry, upgrading St Clare and modifications to the terminals at both ends to facilitate double-deck loading.[19][20]

In July 2016, Balfour Beatty exited BBIP, which became Basalt Infrastructure Partners.[21][22]

In August 2017, Wightlink announced that a new vehicle ferry, Victoria of Wight, would be built for the Portsmouth to Fishbourne service. It entered service on 26 August 2018.[23] In May 2019, BBIP sold a 50% stake in the business to Fiera Infrastructure of Canada.[24]

Current fleet edit

St Clare, July 2013.
Wight Ryder I and Wight Ryder II at Portsmouth Harbour in August 2009 prior to entry into service
Wight Light, the first of the new ferries launched in 2008 for the Lymington to Yarmouth route, undertaking sea trials prior to delivery

Vehicle ferries edit

Wight Sky at Yarmouth Harbour
Wightlink's former St Catherine
Cenwulf, one of the former Lymington – Yarmouth ferries
Our Lady Pamela crossing the Solent
St Helen in foreground, and St Faith, 2013
St Cecilia, July 2013
Ferry Entered service Route
MV St Faith 1990 Portsmouth to Fishbourne
MV St Clare 2001 Portsmouth to Fishbourne
MV Victoria of Wight 2018 Portsmouth to Fishbourne
MV Wight Sun 2009 Lymington to Yarmouth
MV Wight Light 2009 Lymington to Yarmouth
MV Wight Sky 2009 Lymington to Yarmouth

The introduction of the Wight class ferries was a much-discussed affair, with some Lymington residents claiming that the increased size of the ferries posed a risk, both in environmental terms and to users of pleasure craft on the Lymington river.

High-speed craft edit

Catamaran Entered service Route
HSC Wight Ryder I 2009 Portsmouth to Ryde
HSC Wight Ryder II 2009 Portsmouth to Ryde

Historic fleet edit

The following ferries have operated historically on routes run by Wightlink or previous companies that have been absorbed by Wightlink.[25][26]

Lymington-Yarmouth edit

Ship Service Company Notes
PS Glasgow 1830–1850 Solent Steam Packet Co
PS Red Lion 1858–1880 Solent Steam Packet Co
PS Solent 1841–1861 Solent Steam Packet Co
PS Solent 1863 –1901 Solent Steam Packet Co
PS Mayflower 1866 Solent Steam Packet Co
PS Lymington 1893 London and South Western Railway
PS Solent 1902 London and South Western Railway
PS Freshwater 1927-1959 Southern Railway Sold and renamed Sussex Queen, renamed Swanage Queen
MV Lymington 1938–1973 Southern Railway First Voith Schneider driven ferry. Sold and renamed Sound of Sanda
PMV Farringford 1948–1974 British Transport Commission
MV Freshwater 1959–1983 British Transport Commission 2x 320bhp 8cyl Crossley diesels
MV Cenwulf 1973–2009 Wightlink Scrapped 2010
MV Cenred 1974–2009 Wightlink Scrapped 2010
MV Caedmon 1983–2009 Wightlink Scrapped 2010

Portsmouth-Ryde edit

Ship Service Company Notes
PS Arrow 1825–1851 Portsmouth & Ryde Steam Packet Co
PS Union 1825 Portsmouth & Ryde Steam Packet Co
PS Lord Yarborough 1826–1851 Portsmouth & Ryde Steam Packet Co
PS Lord Spencer 1833
PS Prince Albert 1847–1868 Portsmouth & Ryde Steam Packet Co
PS Prince of Wales 1850 Portsea, Portsmouth, Gosport & Isle of Wight Steam Packet Co
PS Princess Royal 1850 Portsea, Portsmouth, Gosport & Isle of Wight Steam Packet Co
PS Her Majesty 1850-1883 Portsmouth & Ryde Steam Packet Co
PS Prince Consort 1859–1882 Port of Portsmouth & Ryde United Steam Packet Co
PS Princess of Wales 1865–1885
PS Duke of Edinburgh 1869–1884
PS Princess Alice 1869–1882
PS Ventnor 1873–1879 Southsea & Isle of Wight Steam Packet Co
PS Shanklin
PS Ryde
PS Southsea
SS Princess Louise 1873–1874 Port of Portsmouth & Ryde United Steam Packet Co
SS Princess Beatrice 1874-1874
PS Heather Bell 1875
PS Albert Edward 1878
PS Alexandra 1879–1913 Sold to Cosens & Co Ltd
PS Victoria 1881–1899 Joint Railway Companies Steampacket Service
PS Duchess of Edinburgh 1884–1910
PS Duchess of Connaught 1884–1910
PS Duchess of Albany 1890–1927
PS Princess Margaret 1893–1927
PS Duchess of Kent 1897–1933 Sold and renamed Clacton Queen
PS Duchess of Fife 1890–1929
PS Duchess of Richmond 1910–1915 Mined in the Mediterranean
PS Duchess of Norfolk 1911–1937 Sold and renamed Embassy. Scrapped June 1967
PS Shanklin 1924–1950 Southern Railway Sold and renamed Monarch
PS Merstone 1928–1952
PS Portsdown 1928–1941 Mined off Southsea
PS Southsea 1930–1941 J113 HMS Southsea mined off the River Tyne
PS Whippingham 1930–1962 J136 HMS Whippingham in WW2
PS Sandown 1934–1965 J20 HMS Sandown in WW2, evacuated 3,000 men at Dunkirk
PS Ryde 1937–1969 J132 HMS Ryde in WW2, Sold for use as a floating hotel and later a nightclub. Subsequent attempts at preservation finally failed in 2018.
TSMV Brading 1948–1986 British Transport Commission
TSMV Southsea 1948–1988 British Transport Commission Acquired for preservation, ultimately unsuccessful. Scrapped 2005.
TSMV Shanklin 1951–1980 British Transport Commission Sold and renamed Prince Ivanhoe. Holed and beached in 1981. Scrapped in 1984.
HSC Our Lady Patricia 1986–2006 Wightlink Scrapped 2006
HSC Our Lady Pamela 1986–2008 Wightlink Scrapped 2008
HSC FastCat Shanklin 1996–2009 Wightlink Sold and renamed Sochi 2
HSC FastCat Ryde 1996–2010 Wightlink Sold and renamed Rapparee, resold and renamed Sochi 1

Portsmouth-Fishbourne edit

Ship Service Company Notes
MV Fishbourne 1927–1961 Southern Railway Sent to Dunkirk in 1940, 2x 120bhp Gardner 4T7 semi diesels
MV Wootton 1928–1961 Southern Railway Sent to Dunkirk in 1940, 2x 120bhp Gardner 4T7 semi diesels
MV Hilsea 1930–1961 Southern Railway 2x 120bhp Gardner 4T7 semi diesels
MV Fishbourne 1961–1983 British Transport Commission IMO5115587, 2x 320bhp 8cyl Crossley diesels
MV Camber Queen 1961–1984 British Transport Commission 2x 320bhp 8cyl Crossley diesels
MV Cuthred 1969–1986 Wightlink Sold and renamed Mira Praia
MV Caedmon 1973–1983 Wightlink Transferred to Lymington - Yarmouth route. Scrapped 2010
MV St Catherine 1983–2010 Wightlink Sold to Delcomar, Sardinia and renamed GB Conte
MV St Helen 1983–2015 Wightlink Sold to Delcomar, Sardinia and renamed Anna Mur
MV St Cecilia 1987–2019 Wightlink Sold to Delcomar, Sardinia and renamed Nando Murrau

Langstone Harbour-Bembridge edit

Ship Service Company Notes
TF Carrier 1885–1888 Isle of Wight Marine Transit Co Ex Firth of Tay train ferry. Scrapped 1888 due to being ill-suited for the Solent

References edit

  1. ^ Annual report for year ended 26 March 2022 Wightlink
  2. ^ a b c d History Wightlink
  3. ^ Sealink sale confirmed Modern Railways issue 432 September 1984 page 454
  4. ^ Intelligence Railway Gazette International September 1984 page 662
  5. ^ Wightlink sold to its management Southern Daily Echo 17 October 2001
  6. ^ "Fragile - a belated Isle of Wight film review". Isle of Wight Guru. Retrieved 8 March 2016.
  7. ^ "Threat to ferry route". Isle of Wight County Press. 7 November 2008. Retrieved 1 April 2009.
  8. ^ "Isle of Wight: MP Andrew Turner asks why introduction of new Wightlink ferry is being delayed". Isle of Wight County Press. 14 November 2008. Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 21 November 2008.
  9. ^ "New Lymington Timetable". Wightlink. Archived from the original on 17 December 2008. Retrieved 21 November 2008.
  10. ^ Andrew Wilson (20 November 2008). "Introduction of new Ferries". Wightlink. Archived from the original on 3 April 2009. Retrieved 29 March 2009.
  11. ^ "Fuel Surcharge". Wightlink. Archived from the original on 22 August 2008. Retrieved 29 March 2009.
  12. ^ "Portsmouth to Fishbourne Investment". Wightlink. Retrieved 27 March 2009.
  13. ^ "Portsmouth to Fishbourne Car Ferry Service – The Way Forward" (PDF). Wightlink. Summer 2008.
  14. ^ Lorraine Parker (18 April 2008). "Wightlink Stretching Capacity on Board". Isle of Wight County Press. Retrieved 27 March 2009.
  15. ^ "Article Search". Shippax. Retrieved 24 September 2017.
  16. ^ "Wightlink bought by Balfour Beatty Infrastructure Partners". Isle of Wight County Press. 16 February 2015. Archived from the original on 23 March 2015. Retrieved 20 March 2015.
  17. ^ "Cross-Solent island ferry firm sold". BBC News. 16 February 2015. Retrieved 9 April 2019.
  18. ^ Wightlink changes hands Ships Monthly May 2015 page 11
  19. ^ "Wightlink invests £45 million in a new ship and port facilities". Wightlink.co.uk. Retrieved 24 September 2017.
  20. ^ "New island ferry in £45m investment". BBC News. 15 May 2015. Retrieved 9 April 2019.
  21. ^ "Balfour Beatty sells its Infrastructure Partners business". World Highways. 6 July 2016. Retrieved 9 April 2019.
  22. ^ "Balfour Beatty exits from BBIP". Stock Market Wire. 1 July 2016. Retrieved 9 April 2019.
  23. ^ "Wightlink reveals the name of its new flagship". IslandEcho.co.uk. 15 August 2017. Retrieved 24 September 2017.
  24. ^ "Ferry firm 50% stake sold to investor". BBC News. 10 June 2019. Retrieved 19 June 2019.
  25. ^ "History of Isle of Wight Ferries – Wightlink". Archived from the original on 4 January 2008. Retrieved 18 February 2008.
  26. ^ Hendy, John. (1989) Sealink Isle of Wight, Ferry Publications

Bibliography edit

  • Hendy, John (1993). Wightlink: Isle Of Wight Ferries (2nd ed.). Narberth, Pembrokeshire: Ferry Publications. ISBN 0951309366.
  • Hendy, John (2008). Lymington-Yarmouth: The New Generation. Ramsey, Isle of Man: Ferry Publications. ISBN 9781906608019.
  • Hendy, John (2010). Solent Seaways: Wightlink - Isle of Wight Ferries. Ramsey, Isle of Man: Ferry Publications. ISBN 9781906608118.

External links edit