Could government and Isle of Wight Council intervention get Wightlink's Fastcats back on the waters later in the evening? 

That is the question being asked by a leading Isle of Wight councillor as the Island seeks a solution to the lack of a Ryde to Portsmouth passenger ferry after 8.20pm.

Cllr Richard Quigley is asking Wightlink and the government to consider a grant to subsidise a six-month trial for later Fastcats on Friday and Saturday nights.

The Cowes businessman, who stood as Labour candidate at the last general election, is chair of the Isle of Wight Council corporate scrutiny committee.

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Isle of Wight County Press: Work earlier this year on the Wightlink terminal at Portsmouth Harbour.Work earlier this year on the Wightlink terminal at Portsmouth Harbour. (Image: Wightlink.)

A petition set up by Isle of Wight journalist and parish councillor Harriet Hadfield, calling for Wightlink to reinstate later FastCats, has now clocked up more than 5,000 signatures, although the company's chief executive told the County Press last week it was not practical to being the later sailings back at the moment.

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Cllr Quigley, in an exclusive letter to the County Press, said: "Stopping a service at 8.20 pm questions whether the term “service” should be used at all. 

"Based on the running costs of a return service, it should be possible to run a trial late night crossing on a Friday and Saturday night (say 11 pm to Ryde) for six months for less than £100,000.

"That’s assuming there are no passengers buying tickets. 

"Our MP could ask the Minister for Transport to stump up £50,000 of that and ask Wightlink to invest the other £50,000.

"If the Minister were to provide the money via the council, should the crossing prove popular. Wightlink and the council could share the profit. "

"We seem stuck in a loop of us as customers telling Wightlink what we want and Wightlink telling us why we can’t have it. Surely it’s worth trying something different?”

Last week, Mr Greenfield told the County Press Wightlink constantly examined trends to look for the extra usage that would allow it to bring back later catamarans.

He cited the work done to the Portsmouth Harbour terminal as showing the firm's commitment to the route.

And in the same week, Isle of Wight MP Bob Seely told the House of Commons a minimum level of service should be applied to the ferries.

Mr Seely was speaking to Leader of the House of Commons Penny Mordaunt, about the cross-Solent ferries.

Ms Mordaunt, a Portsmouth MP, was receptive and gave a positive response, Mr Seely told the County Press.

He said his messaging was consistent in wanting to guarantee levels of service across The Solent, to ensure minimum services due to Islanders having no alternatives.

Giving his reaction, Isle of Wight Council's transport lead, Cllr Phil Jordan, said: "There is no intention for the Isle of Wight council to subsidise the ferry operator to provide late night services.

"I appreciate the creative thinking however, and trust that government and Wightlink are able to respond positively with an improved service offer for island residents."