Isle of Wight cross-Solent ferry operator, Wightlink, has officially opened its new customer building in Portsmouth.

The new three-storey customer centre is partof Wightlink’s £45 million investment in the Fishbourne-Portsmouth route.

A new hybrid energy ship is also under construction as part of the project and will come into service later in the year.

Isle of Wight haulier Wayne Lightbown was the first driver to buy a ticket at the new building.

Meanwhile, customers using the new building in Gunwharf Road, Portsmouth can also now learn more about the history of Isle of Wight ferries and the heritage of the site – the former Camber Dock – for themselves.

Historian Dr Graham Heaney, who works at the University of Portsmouth, has been delving into the archives to find out more about the area’s rich heritage as the city grew in importance and prosperity over the centuries.

Dr Heaney said:

“Wightlink’s present car ferry port, located between Gunwharf Quays (the Royal Navy’s former HMS Vernon base), the LandRover BAR headquarters and lively Spice Island, became a dry dock in 1863, following the passage of a special Act of Parliament. Later it was used as a quay for collier ships to supply the city’s coal-fired power station which was demolished in 1977. Isle of Wight car ferries first sailed from nearby Broad Street and moved to their present berth in 1982.”

Large granite blocks that originally lined the dry dock, discovered during Wightlink’s construction works in summer 2017, have been salvaged and placed around the site as seats.

Wightlink Chief Executive, Keith Greenfield, said:

“Wightlink and our predecessor ferry companies have a history of looking to the future.

“Our new hybrid energy ship Victoria of Wight will be the most environmentally friendly on the Solent when she arrives this summer, but we are also proud of our long history of serving the Isle of Wight and transporting millions of people across the water for holidays and business. We hope customers will enjoy discovering more about our heritage at the port.”