WIGHTLINK has suspended its Lymington to Yarmouth car ferry until further notice due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The crossing will be suspended from March 31 due to the lack of staff and passengers, it also comes following government advice for only essential travel.

Wightlink Chief Executive Keith Greenfield says: “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.”

Existing bookings on the Lymington Yarmouth route past March 31 will be transferred over to the Portsmouth to Fishbourne route.

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.”

Following the announcement, Red Funnel is supporting its fellow Isle of Wight ferry operator and offering alternative travel arrangements for customers.

To support those who need to travel for essential reasons, Red Funnel will honour any pre-booked foot passenger tickets (including season ticket holders) from Wightlink customers on any Red Funnel foot passenger crossing with no additional fare payable.

Fran Collins, chief executive of Red Funnel, said: “We understand and sympathise with Wightlink’s tough decision to suspend one of its routes in these extraordinary times. No ferry operator would wish to reduce services unless absolutely necessary and we fully support Wightlink at this time. Red Funnel is doing all we can to maintain continuity for all customers across the communities we serve.”