IT was a claim that was guaranteed to raise eyebrows on both sides of the Solent.
Hampshire MP Caroline Dinenage stood up in the House of Commons and declared it was often quicker to travel from Lymington to Portsmouth via the Isle of Wight than to make the journey by road.
Ms Dinenage was calling for more Government cash to be spent on improving the M27 and other traffic-choked routes in the south.
The Tory MP for Gosport said: “I’ve heard it can be quicker for commuters in the extreme western end of the Solent to get to Portsmouth via the Isle of Wight, which involves taking two ferries, than by using the M27, which is clearly ridiculous.”
It did indeed seem an unlikely scenario – not least because of the £81 cost of buying two day return tickets.
So the Daily Echo decided to put Ms Dinenage’s claim to the test – with what appeared to be entirely predictable results.
Faced with several alternatives I took my car instead of travelling as a foot passenger and crossing the Island by taxi.
Chris arrives at Yarmouth, Isle of Wight
The journey took three-and-a-half hours compared with the one-and-a-quarter hours it takes on average to drive from Lymington to Portsmouth when traffic is flowing freely.
Wightlink rules required me to arrive at the Lymington terminal half an hour before my ferry was due to sail.
After a pleasant 30 minutes spent studying the views across the Lymington River I was waved aboard Wight Sky and began what turned out to be a rather long and convoluted journey to Portsmouth.
It was certainly more relaxing than battling the congestion that often makes motorway journeys a nightmare.
As Wight Sky glided along the Lymington River, it was time to put my feet up with a cup of coffee – an option not open to drivers using the M27 unless they stop at Rownhams Services.
Now Chris waits at Fishbourne ferry terminal
The incredibly smooth crossing was an idyllic way to travel from one part of the south coast to another. Stunning views of the Hampshire shoreline were gradually replaced by equally magnificent scenes of the Isle of Wight as the W-class ferry made its way across the Solent.
Historic Hurst Castle was just one of the famous landmarks that came into view as the vessel completed the half-hour voyage.
The ferry docked at Yarmouth at 9.20am. I had barely begun my journey but more than an hour had elapsed since I arrived in Lymington. On a good day I could almost have reached Portsmouth by road in the same length of time.
The ferry leaves Fishbourne around an hour later
My first ferry trip was followed by a frustrating trip to the other Wightlink terminal at Fishbourne.
A temporary diversion caused by roadworks sent me along twisting country roads littered with speed cameras, 30mph restrictions and other impediments that all added to my journey time.
It was a far cry from my normal 70mph trip along the M27. The diversion meant I arrived at Fishbourne just after 10am, which meant I had to wait almost an hour for the next ferry.
In scenes similar to the motorway on a bad day I found myself surrounded by three lanes of stationary traffic and seemed to spend most of the next 60 minutes staring at the back of a red Volvo.
At last it was time to board the St Helen for the 40-minute crossing to Portsmouth.
As the city’s famous Spinnaker Tower came into view I was almost sad that my sea voyages were finally coming to an end.
Chris finally arrives in Portsmouth
But the whole trip had taken nearly three times as long as it normally takes to drive from Lymington to Portsmouth via the A337 and the M27.
It was without doubt a less stressful experience than the more conventional route.
As someone who has lived and worked in the New Forest for more than 20 years. I know how long it can take just to get from Lymington to Lyndhurst, especially when the roads are gridlocked in the summer.
I have also experienced the endless delays that occur when crashes and other incidents bring the M27 to a standstill.
On one occasion our vehicles were stationary for so long that many of us switched off our engines and got out to stretch our legs.
However, the vast majority of journeys along the M27 are far shorter than the alternative of going via the Isle of Wight.
And plans to allow drivers to use the hard shoulder between junctions four and 11 will improve traffic flow.
My two trips across the Solent aboard smooth and luxuriously upholstered vessels, with some of the best scenery on the south coast thrown in, had been an idyllic way to spend a sunny spring morning.
But in terms of time and convenience, give me the motorway any day. The return journey just flashed by.
- Caroline Dinenage defended her comments last night, saying commuters must have taken a faster route.
She said: “I was quoting from a transport survey that had been carried out by the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).
“Someone said they found it easierto get to Portsmouth via the Isle of Wight but didn’t specify how they made the journey.”
One option, she said, would be to go as a foot passenger and take a taxi on the Island.
She said the catamaran service from Portsmouth to Ryde took just 15 minutes compared with the 40 minutes taken by the car ferry from Fishbourne.
“I reckon that’s the only way they could do it,” she said.
Chris Yandell believes he might have been able to complete the journey in less than two hours if he had gone as a foot passenger and had also been able to catch an earlier ferry at Fishbourne.
He acknowledged that travelling from Lymington to Portsmouth by road could sometimes take two hours or more if the traffic was very heavy.