Wightlink says it has made the ‘unavoidable’ decision to suspend its Yarmouth to Lymington car ferry route from next week, following the outbreak of coronavirus.

The ferry firm says fewer people have been travelling on the route in recent weeks and numbers have fallen heavily since the Prime Minister’s announcement to ‘stay at home’.

The last sailing will be on Tuesday (31) until ‘normal services can be resumed’.

Pre-purchased foot passenger tickets will be accepted on Red Funnel and Hovertravel though, including rail tickets and season tickets.

Wightlink says its Portsmouth to Fishbourne route will still operate.

Wightlink Chief Executive Keith Greenfield said:

“We know suspending the service will disrupt the travel plans of some customers and we apologise, but it no longer makes sense to continue operating a route with very few customers while exposing our colleagues to risk.

“We have plenty of capacity on our Portsmouth-Fishbourne ships to carry all the essential travellers who need to cross the Solent at this time.”­­

The ferry firm hopes the suspension will reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading to Wightlink staff based at Lymington and Yarmouth and further into the community.

Existing Lymington-Yarmouth vehicle bookings are being transferred to the Portsmouth-Fishbourne route. Customers can amend their tickets for free online or claim a refund.

Under the leadership of Isle of Wight Council during the COVID-19 crisis, all cross-Solent ferry operators are working together to keep the Island connected, as previosuly reported by Isle of Wight Radio.

Christopher Garnett, chairman of the Isle of Wight Transport Infrastructure Board, said:

“The Board has been meeting regularly with the cross-Solent ferry operators to review the current and developing situation.

“The need to safeguard the essential mainland links and services for the Island remains paramount. But there will be adjustments to services and timetables to ensure our operators remain effective and robust during these critical times.

“In the light of this, the decision to suspend the Yarmouth-Lymington service is unfortunately unavoidable at this point, and we fully support Wightlink in taking this decision in the best interests of the Island.”

Wightlink says there will be no change to its Ryde to Portsmouth FastCat service.