THE high-speed sailing service between Southampton and West Cowes has returned today, after a 72-day suspension.

Red Funnel has welcomed back its "Red Jets" after the service was suspended following an extreme reduction in demand because of the coronavirus crisis.

Operations resumed this morning on board the Red Jet 6, with the first sailing departing from Southampton at 5.15am.

In order to support social distancing measures, the Red Jet capacity has been reduced to a maximum of 148 passengers – 54% of normal capacity - and returning customers can expect to find seat markers indicating blocked seats to assist with social distancing and enhanced cleaning and sanitisation.

Fran Collins, CEO of Red Funnel, commented: “We are absolutely delighted to see our Red Jet fleet back in operation and to share this positive news with passengers. I’d like to thank our customers for their patience and understanding over the past few months while Red Jet has been out of operation.

“Behind the scenes we have been working hard to meet government guidelines for health and safety and ensure all social distancing measures, signage and processes are in place. We’ve also been keeping the Jets active with a weekly maintenance routine and we’re happy to report that we’re ready to safely welcome passengers back onboard.

“Whilst we’re starting with a restricted service, we will be closely monitoring the situation regarding customer demand and will adapt our operations and timetables to ensure we continue to support our customers in line with the latest government guidance.”

The Red Jet service will operate to a revised timetable, which has been determined in line with regular commuter and peak travel times, and this will include an initial three crossings in the morning and three in the evening from each side of the Solent, seven days a week, with hopes to increase crossings soon.

There will be services departing Southampton every morning at 5.15am, 6.45am and 8.15am, while services will depart in the evening at 3.45pm, 5.15pm and 6.45pm.

Then services will depart in the morning from West Cowes at 6am, 7.30am and 9am, and in the evening at 4.30pm, 6pm and 7.30pm.