THE construction of high-speed Solent ferry is ahead of schedule.

Red Funnel’s Red Jet 7 is rapidly taking shape at Wight Shipyard Co in East Cowes on the Isle of Wight.

The £7m, 41- metre vessel is expected to enter the water ahead of schedule in May 2018.

The twin aluminium catamaran hulls are now easily recognisable inside the Union Jack branded Columbine building in East Cowes.

The shell plating on the twin hulls is complete and welding work is underway in the hull void spaces, bulkheads and double bottoms. Once complete, the fuel and water tanks will be ready for installation.

As with Red Jet 6, the new vessel’s superstructure and hulls are completed separately.

When complete, the passenger cabin will be lifted onto the hull and mounted on shock-absorbing resilient mounts to provide maximum passenger comfort.

Kevin George, Red Funnel’s CEO, commented: “We are delighted the construction of Red Jet 7 is progressing so well, which is testimony to the highly skilled workforce at Wight Shipyard. We expect the sea trials and crew training to commence in June 2018 ahead of her official naming ceremony in Cowes in July.”

Red Jet 7 will join sister ship Red Jet 6 and the Australian built Red Jet 4 on Red Funnel’s flagship Southampton-West Cowes route.

Her arrival will increase passenger capacity by 51 per cent which means the Hi-Speed Red Jet service can carry up to 825 passengers per hour in each direction at peak times of the year.