New Lymington/Yarmouth Ferries Enter Service

Wightlink have announced that their new class W Ferries are to enter service on the Lymington/Yarmouth route. The Wightlink website says:-

"For the last three years Wightlink has been working towards the replacement of its old ferries on the Lymington to Yarmouth route with its new W-Class ferries custom-designed and purpose-built for operation in the Lymington River.

The entry into service of the W-Class will be the fruition of a £26million investment to introduce vessels offering 21st Century standards to the one million passengers each year who rely on this lifeline service.

The existing ferries are 35 years old and are in desperate need of replacement with modern vessels that meet current safety and environmental standards. The investment will benefit Wightlink's customers and the economies of Lymington, Yarmouth, the New Forest area and the Isle of Wight as the new vessels secure the future of the route and help develop jobs in the region.

Consultation and various detailed studies on the operation and impact of the new ferries are either now complete or nearing completion including independent sea trials and environmental assessments. Following the extensive research and receipt of expert scientific advice, and in compliance with its statutory obligations, Wightlink is satisfied that the new ferries are safe to operate and will have no discernable impact on the environment or the surrounding habitats in the Lymington estuary."

In response the Lymington Harbour Commissioners have issued a statement that says:-

"Wightlink have defied the will of all the regulators in deciding to introduce their new ferries before the necessary safety trials are complete and the environmental concerns have been resolved.

They have taken this action despite repeated requests from the LHC and their previous undertaking not to do so. They claim that they are justified because of the needs of the Isle of Wight, but the real problem that has lead to this situation is Wightlink's determination to design and build ferries in advance of meaningful consultations with all the regulators. As a result, all subsequent consultations have taken place against the commercial necessity on the part of Wightlink to introduce ferries that had already been paid for.

We have once again requested Wightlink to desist from this action, and are contacting all the relevant Government Departments for support in preventing it. However, if Wightlink go ahead without completion and acceptance of the risk assessment we will be providing whatever harbour patrols are appropriate to help safe guard other river users. These actions will be taken by the Commissioners in order to minimise any threat to the safety of other river users but without condoning the introduction of the new ferries. It has been confirmed to us by Government that as presently constituted, the Commissioner's do not have the power to prevent the new ferries sailing.

We expect the full BMT report to be available by 5 March and it will be circulated to stake holders for consultation as soon as possible."

It would seem this story may not be over yet.

Date Added - 24-Feb-2009

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