The UK government is temporarily allowing ferry operators to the Isle of Wight to work together and maintain a crucial lifeline service between the island and the mainland during the Covid-19 outbreak.
The pandemic has significantly reduced demand for the day-to-day services provided by the three operators Hovertravel, Wightlink and Red Funnel. Staff absences due to self-isolation and illness are also likely to pose a challenge to keeping these essential ferry services going.
By relaxing rules under the Competition Act 1998, the government aims to help ferry operators continue running essential services despite reduced usage during the virus, maintaining a vital route for those who cannot work from home and those needing medical treatment.
It will also mean the operators can work together to allow for essential food, freight and medical supplies to be transported between the Isle of Wight and the mainland.
The operators will be able to discuss and agree routes and coordinate staff resourcing to ensure that ferries will still run regularly across the Solent, delivering a critical service on which Isle of Wight residents depend.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps commented: 'By taking action today, we are helping ensure people, goods and services can continue to move freely between the Isle of Wight and the mainland.
'These routes remain fundamental to people's everyday lives and this action underlines the government’s commitment to support transport operators providing vital services at this difficult time.'
Nautilus members experiencing difficulties related to the coronavirus outbreak are advised to contact their industrial organiser for assistance. In an emergency, members can also contact the Nautilus 24/7 helpline.