Page last updated at 16:47 GMT, Monday, 12 May 2008 17:47 UK

Sailings cut as fuel costs rise

Red Funnel Ferries
Red Funnel said it did not want to pass on rising fuel costs to passengers

An Isle of Wight ferry company has said it is cutting the number of crossings it makes due to rising fuel prices.

Red Funnel, which runs services from Southampton to Cowes, will axe four lunchtime sailings of its high-speed Red Jet service from 19 May.

The company, which was sold to Prudential for 200m last year, blamed the doubling in price of marine gas oil since 2004 for its decision.

Red Funnel said it has deliberately targeted its quieter sailings.

"This is not a decision we have taken lightly," managing director Tom Docherty said.

"But unfortunately it is not possible to absorb the soaring cost of fuel.

"Rather than increase fares at this stage we believe reducing the service to hourly over the quieter lunchtime period is a more acceptable solution."

Cowes week

Mr Docherty added that consideration will be given to reinstating the two round-trips if the price of fuel returns to a sustainable level.

The 1145 and 1245 departures from Southampton and the 1215 and 1315 sailings from West Cowes will be withdrawn on weekdays only.

It means there will be half-hourly Red Jet sailings in both directions until 1115 when the service will become hourly until 1315.

The service at weekends will remain unchanged, with daytime departures every 30 minutes.

An enhanced timetable will operate during the Cowes Week sailing regatta in August.

Red Funnel uses 10 million litres of fuel each year, costing about 4.5m but the cost of marine gas oil is currently at a record high of 591 a tonne.

Last year, Mr Docherty and his fellow directors shared a personal windfall of 40m when the company was sold.

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