Sunday, 1 May 2016

Another Lymington Loss-Maker?

Ferry Interesting - Again?
The London and South Western Railway replaced small local boat owners on the route between Lymington and Yarmouth, Isle of Wight. Passenger ferries begat car ferries ...
... which begat bigger car ferries named (as you would expect in the Solent area) after anglo-saxon kings.
Then along came the big expansion into even bigger ferries ...
... named Wight Light, ditto Sun and ditto Sky. Excellent names for boats but nowhere near as superb as Boaty McBoatface.

But there has always been a problem with the :Lymington Yarmouth passage. The boats cannot manage a round trip in an hour. The approach to the pier at the mainland side is via a winding channel with lines of moored boats.
Speed needs to be veeeery slow. Consequently three boats have been required to maintain a summer half hourly service. The winter schedule of once hourly still needs two working boats.

Then in 2015 came this announcement from Wightlink.

With customer statistics revealing that the number of people using the Yarmouth-Lymington route has fallen by almost 15% in the last four years, Wightlink will re-locate one of the three W-class ships that operates in the Western Solent to the Fishbourne-Portsmouth route in early 2015. The vessel will replace St Helen which will be retired. This decision will not affect the first or last sailings each day and services for commuters will not be altered.

The service would remain hourly (two boats) all year.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch there has been a small flotilla of failed ferry companies trying to outWightlink Wightlink for the foot passenger business.
Puffin, normally found chugging round Lymingtoin Harbour, had a go and failed.
Reviews on-line were never particularly favourable. But the pasengeris in question were expecting a cruise!

When you hand your money over at the booth, it's explained that the advertised 'Scenic Cruise' is basically a ferry service to the IoW and back. Super. 

Immediately a little underwhelmed, we boarded and neither we nor the many other passengers were greeted by the staff. The 'captain' was clearly far more interested in his young blonde assistant who was equally keen to lark about and flirt back with him. 

Very occasionally interrupted by some spectacularly dull tannoyed 'facts' about the scenic scenery  all delivered with a degree of boredom and a low level resentment that we've never experienced before. And we've been on some BAD boat and bus tours over the years. At this point the staff tips bucket on board became an increasingly irrelevant piece of cargo. 

Then, last year came the meteoric rise and equally meteoric fall of Scoot.
The growth and inevitable collapse of the new company has been well documented in these blogs.

But the local press recently broke the news of yet another venture from mainland to the western end of the Island.
The heading says "mornings and evenings" but ...
... the service is very limited indeed. How will it be fundeded? Will there be enough fare paying passengers at these unsocial hours? Do people commute in their droves from Yarmouth IoW to London on a Monday and back late on a Friday?
Here we go again! The company is "supported" by an existing boat operation ...
... and reportedly used a converted ex-Bembridge Lifeboat. The company web site supplies the times and fares.
So there is an earlier departure from the Island than the first Wightlink boat but on Mondays only, and ...
... a later return from Lymington.

The return trip from the Island costs £40 (out Monday, back Friday) which compares very unfavourably with the car ferry's passenger fare of £20. OUCH
The service will run, it is said, for six months experimentally. fbb (and his Island correspondents) give it a much lower chance of survival. As more of a fixed-time taxi it may yet fill a real need.

Our man on the spot is watching carefully. Thanks Alan!

 Next Bank Holiday bus blog : Monday 2nd May 


  1. Travelled on one of the Puffin Cruises from Lymington a couple of years ago. Saw no mention of a service to/from IOW. It went to a point near Hurst Castle and back. Little commentary but we enjoyed it.

    Read in a privately produced guide about boat operators around UK that there was also supposed to be a ferry service operated by Puffin. Contacted author and he believed it was still operating. As far as I could tell it wasn't.

  2. The book I refer to above is 'Trip Out - a guide to the passenger boat services of the British Isles' by Geoffery Hamer. The website is Whilst the last edition I have is for 2011/12 the website indicates a 2015 edition has been produced and an amendment can be downloaded. Covers coastal, rivers and canals. Anything timetabled or offering trips.

    Following a link to the Puffin website they are still offering what initially looks like a regular service to/from Lymington and Yarmouth - by using the term 'ferry'. The detail of what is actually being offered shows this to be a limited facility between June and September based around a lunchtime cruise. Extra afternoon journeys (mainly in July and August) permit three hours or more on the IOW for which the virtues of the island buses are extolled.

  3. Replies
    1. Andrew Kleissner1 May 2016 at 13:49

      The South Western and Isle of Wight Junction Railway Company actually got an Act passed in 1901 to build a tunnel, linking a point between Lymington and Brockenhurst to the Freshwater, Yarmouth and Newport Railway. Approval was renewed in 1903 and 1909 and trial bores were sunk in 1914. Then came the War ...

  4. Thanks Andrew. And blogged in January 2013!