PASSENGERS travelling cross-Solent are being "closely monitored" with plans to reinstate services to the Isle of Wight.

The Isle of Wight Transport Infrastructure Board is closely monitoring cross-Solent foot passenger numbers with a view to the reinstatement of Wightlink's Fast Cat service as soon as demand permits.

At present foot passenger numbers are at around 15 per cent of normal levels, and rail volumes between London Waterloo and Portsmouth at just 11 per cent.

This means the service is not financially viable.

The Board has identified that there is currently plenty of spare capacity – with Red Funnel's hi-speed passenger service between Cowes and Southampton operating at 20 per cent of available capacity – and Hovertravel’s Ryde to Southsea passenger service at 25 per cent.

The Red Jet is currently operating a reduced service of three round trips each morning and evening.

“We are working extremely closely with all the cross-Solent operators over the timing and financial viability of the reinstatement of services, and it is absolutely crucial this is done at the right time taking into account spare capacity, demand and viability,” said board chairman, Christopher Garnett.

“All operators are running at a loss and any service increases must take the operators’ viability into account to ensure services are protected for the long-term future.

"Unfortunately, just at this time the board cannot support the re-introduction of the Fast Cat service with such low passenger numbers as demand is easily being met by Hovertravel. This position is fully supported by Wightlink and Hovertravel.

"The operators are absolutely committed to supporting the Island's recovery and are keen to add capacity as demand increases and at the right time.”

Foot passengers looking to travel from the east of the Island to the mainland can still use Hovertravel, which has been operating at 99 per cent reliability throughout the pandemic. It is also undertaking a number of emergency patient transfers for the Isle of Wight Ambulance Service.

Foot passengers can also use Wightlink's Fishbourne to Portsmouth car ferry service, which is also close to Portsmouth Harbour station.