Isle of Wight questions

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I'm planning a day trip to the Isle of Wight -- out to Cowes with Red Funnel, walk to Ryde, return via Portsmouth; I'll probably buy a day return to Eastleigh and then singles to Cowes and from Ryde. The outward journey is fine -- you can't reserve on the Red Jet service even if you want to. Coming back, I see from their websites that neither Wightlink nor Hovertravel are insisting on reservations as strictly as they did some weeks ago, but both give the impression that it's a good idea to have one if you want to travel on your preferred crossing; do people have an idea how feasible it would be to turn up at Ryde and buy a ticket on the spot for the next crossing? That would mean that I wouldn't have to decide on my route or crossing time until I get to Ryde, but on the other hand I can imagine that both catamarans and hovercraft will be busy on an August Saturday, particularly if the weather is good.

Will both Wightlink and Hovertravel at Ryde be able and willing to sell through tickets to mainland railway stations, with railcard discounts?

Hovertravel's website says here that if you have a hovercraft + rail ticket and want to make a reservation, you can fill in an online form, which asks for 'rail ticket number'. E-tickets have a number explicitly labelled as 'ticket number'; for an orange card ticket, is it the 19-digit number near the bottom right? (On Wightlink you can, or at least could in June, phone or e-mail for a reservation without needing a ticket number).

Finally (not a ticketing question), I see that the Hoverbus appears to be timed to leave the terminal only a minute after the arrival of the hovercraft; is it normally possible to make this connection?
 
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Gloster

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As far as getting to the island is concerned, you can get the RedJet to (West) Cowes. If you are intending to cross to East Cowes and start from there, they are apparently restricting how you can pay on the floating bridge and not accepting cash. Otherwise you have the choice of the Red Funnel car ferry, which seems to be suffering a lot of cancellations at the moment, or walking via Newport.

I have not travelled on the FastCat recently, but I did ask a few days ago and was told that, even though they are only hourly (with gaps), there have only been problems on peak weekends and bank-holidays or when the Hovercraft is not running. That said, it would be best if you could avoid trying to use the same crossings as the returning day trippers.

I understand that the Wightlink ticket office at Pier Head is still closed. The Islandline office at Esplanade is open, but there have been a lot of early closures recently. I think it can sell you a ticket for the FastCat as long as it is part of a longer rail journey, so Pier Head-Eastleigh should be possible.

I presume you know the various back paths that avoid the main Newport-Ryde, particularly east of Wootton.
 

Diplodicus

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I travelled as a foot passenger from Portsmouth to Fishbourne yesterday afternoon (Saturday) on 15:15 outbound. Lounges <50% full despite Gunwharf Quays heaving, I'd purchased ticket via Wightlink app. No sign of any human beings in the ticket offices.
 

hermit

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The island is very busy at the moment, but I don’t think the catamaran from Ryde will be full. When I crossed yesterday evening there were very few passengers - no sign of a rush of returning holidaymakers.


As has been said, the Wightlink ticket office at Pierhead is closed (permanently?) and I don’t think their machines sell the full range of ferry tickets, let alone through connections. So the best bet is Ryde Esplanade station, where the booking office is usually open and where there is a rail ticket machine which will certainly sell you a discounted ticket. Interestingly, the fare from Esplanade to mainland destinations is a bit cheaper than that from Pierhead as it would (in normal times) be a through rail journey. And it will entitle you to use the Rail Replacement Taxi up the pier.

The answer to your question about the Hoverbus is that it waits for the passengers off the hovercraft.

I hope you enjoy your trip. For me, the highlight of your walk would be Quarr Abbey, which is a very impressive building and has a nice tearoom.
 

30907

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Depending on your starting point, the appropriate Offpeak Return to Ryde plus single Eastleigh-Cowes might be as cheap as splitting, and convenient too!
 

181

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Thankyou everyone for the information and suggestions. I've now found the information on the Wightlink website about ticket offices being closed, although it's on a Covid page that says that face masks are still a legal requirement and so presumably hasn't been updated recently. I've also noticed that the timetable page does in fact still say 'Foot passengers must book in advance'; is this still enforced? Does anyone know whether Hovertravel's ticket office at Ryde is open?
 

Gloster

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As far as Wightlink is concerned, they will let unbooked passengers on if there are places, which is apparently more common now as they have eased distancing rules. However, it seems they can still reach capacity on Saturdays and Bank Holidays, but on other days you would be unlucky if you turned up and didn’t get on the first cat. Note: this is what I have been told as I have not travelled on the cats for some years.
 

hermit

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As far as Wightlink is concerned, they will let unbooked passengers on if there are places, which is apparently more common now as they have eased distancing rules. However, it seems they can still reach capacity on Saturdays and Bank Holidays, but on other days you would be unlucky if you turned up and didn’t get on the first cat. Note: this is what I have been told as I have not travelled on the cats for some years.

This is also my understanding of the position. All the crossings I have made recently, and those made by a friend of mine, have had plenty of room, though admittedly we have not been travelling on a peak Saturday afternoon.

Hovertravel‘s ticket office at Ryde was certainly open when I used the hovercraft a couple of weeks ago, though they encourage you to book online. Bear in mind that the hovercraft‘s passenger capacity is considerably less than that of the cat.
 

181

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I e-mailed Hovertravel to ask if their ticket office would be open and whether, if you use their online form to make a reservation after buying a hovercraft + rail ticket, you have to pay an amendment fee to use a different crossing; they replied 'the terminal should be open' and (after I'd asked twice) 'If you are booking including your rail ticket please fill in this form so secure your space on board. Tickets are then valid on any service on the same day providing there is space.', so that's good to know.

I've bought a hovercraft + rail ticket and filled in the form to make a reservation -- I decided that, as being a day tripper myself I was inevitably going to be returning at the same time as the other day trippers, it would be reassuring to have a reservation; I'll take a book to read in case I have to wait, and from what Hovertravel say it's possible that I might not in fact have to wait. I chose the hovercraft because a) I've only been on a hovercraft once before (on that route some years ago), b) it's noticeably cheaper, and c) the hourly catamaran just misses the hourly train towards Eastleigh, whereas despite the bus (or walking) link the XX.15 hovercraft should connect more neatly.

One further question: I see that journey planners suggest staying on the Hoverbus to Portsmouth and Southsea station, but it appears that it gets there via the Hard bus station, which I think is almost adjacent to Portsmouth Harbour station, so I'd prefer to get on the train there. This seems an obviously reasonable route, and I would hope that my ticket would be valid from Portsmouth Stations as it would be if I was beginning the journey there, but am I likely to have any trouble with barriers or staff at Portsmouth Harbour?
 

hermit

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I e-mailed Hovertravel to ask if their ticket office would be open and whether, if you use their online form to make a reservation after buying a hovercraft + rail ticket, you have to pay an amendment fee to use a different crossing; they replied 'the terminal should be open' and (after I'd asked twice) 'If you are booking including your rail ticket please fill in this form so secure your space on board. Tickets are then valid on any service on the same day providing there is space.', so that's good to know.

I've bought a hovercraft + rail ticket and filled in the form to make a reservation -- I decided that, as being a day tripper myself I was inevitably going to be returning at the same time as the other day trippers, it would be reassuring to have a reservation; I'll take a book to read in case I have to wait, and from what Hovertravel say it's possible that I might not in fact have to wait. I chose the hovercraft because a) I've only been on a hovercraft once before (on that route some years ago), b) it's noticeably cheaper, and c) the hourly catamaran just misses the hourly train towards Eastleigh, whereas despite the bus (or walking) link the XX.15 hovercraft should connect more neatly.

One further question: I see that journey planners suggest staying on the Hoverbus to Portsmouth and Southsea station, but it appears that it gets there via the Hard bus station, which I think is almost adjacent to Portsmouth Harbour station, so I'd prefer to get on the train there. This seems an obviously reasonable route, and I would hope that my ticket would be valid from Portsmouth Stations as it would be if I was beginning the journey there, but am I likely to have any trouble with barriers or staff at Portsmouth Harbour?
I’m sure you’ll have no problem at the barriers at Harbour station. As you say, it’s an obvious way to go, and I see that the National Rail planner actually shows the change being made there.

I would think the bus stop to platform walking distance is comparable at either station.

The Eastleigh line has always had the worst connections with IW catamarans of any of the routes from Portsmouth. Even more frustrating in the reverse direction, when the train is booked to arrive just as the cat is leaving. It makes getting to Hedge End to watch cricket at the Rosebowl a bit of an expedition.
 

James Wake

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A Ryde St John’s to Portsmouth and Southsea ticket is a good way to do the Hovercraft and Hoverbus without paying a huge amount at the ticket office, so it’s worth checking the fares from there for other places too to see if it works out cheaper, that ticket is £8.50 with railcard anytime single
 

181

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Thankyou again everyone. In case anyone is interested or finds it useful for planning future journeys:

I had a successful trip yesterday (walking via Newport and Quarr Abbey where I patronised the tearoom); I was pleased to have a route with little road walking as the roads seemed busy. The outbound Red Jet wasn't all that busy, although there seemed to be quite a lot of people waiting for the return sailing.

Hovertravel actually gave me a reservation for the 18.45 departure from Ryde, rather than the 18.15 that I'd requested, so I had the less-good connection anyway. I didn't bother querying it, so I don't know whether the 18.15 was already fully booked more than 48 hours beforehand, or whether it was just a mistake. I got to Ryde at about 5, and asked whether there were any seats available on earlier crossings; rather than an unequivocal yes or no, the answer was that I could join the standby queue. I didn't feel like queuing for a long time with no guarantee of it being worth it, so I decided to come back later for my booked crossing. (I subsequently noticed that there seemed to be a second hovercraft in operation providing some extra crossings). The 18.45 had a fair few spare seats, although when I was checking in I think I overheard some people being told that they couldn't switch to a later crossing, so later ones may have been full again.

There were indeed no problems with catching the Hoverbus at Southsea or getting through the barriers at Portsmouth Harbour.
 

hermit

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I’m glad it all worked out for you.

Having made two mid-morning crossings on the cat from Portsmouth in the last few days, I would now be a bit less relaxed about the advisability of advance booking than I was in previous comments. Despite the very large number of visitors coming to the island at the moment, Wightlink’s weekday timetable still inexplicably has 2 hr gaps either side of lunchtime. There is a real risk of unbooked passengers being left behind.
 

infobleep

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A Ryde St John’s to Portsmouth and Southsea ticket is a good way to do the Hovercraft and Hoverbus without paying a huge amount at the ticket office, so it’s worth checking the fares from there for other places too to see if it works out cheaper, that ticket is £8.50 with railcard anytime single
I was told they were not allowed to sell Hovercraft tickets in Portsmouth. This was at the ticket office when someone enquired.

Perhaps we should have asked is it possible to get a ticket to a station on the isle of Wight which includes the Hover Craft but didn't think of that. Not that it affected me as I already had a ticket including the Hovercraft.
 
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