n an exclusive interview with the County Press, Keith Greenfield revealed Wightlink is open to bringing in a set price for those travelling for hospital trips but, he said, it is about striking the right balance.
Although the cross-Solent operator currently gives 50 per cent off for NHS patients, there are concerns about the cost of tickets inflating at busy periods.
For example, in the holidays, patients are finding prices are high, even after applying the half price discount.
Mr Greenfield said a fixed rate is something being discussed for the 10,000 NHS customers who travel with Wightlink.
He said: “We need to make sure we don’t disadvantage those [NHS customers] generally travelling at less than the rate most customers are travelling at.
“We’re open to doing that but it has got winners and losers in it and we don’t want to disappoint customers who maybe are already achieving a better fare than has been suggested.”
The County Press received over 400 responses to a post asking readers what they would like to ask the ferry boss.
Many of the questions centred around the cost of travel and why prices were so high, especially for Islanders.
Mr Greenfield said moving four million people a year across the Solent, and maintaining ports and the ships, is “not a cheap business”.
One reader pointed out it was cheaper to catch a ferry in Scotland, to which he said services there are unreliable and the ferries are not in good condition.
He said much like rail services, if Islanders book early, prices are generally less steep.
Pressed on whether prices would return to pre-Covid levels, he said that would not happen but they would try to keep them on the “right side of inflation”.
On a offering a fixed rate for Islanders, he said: “We’re in a competitive market, we choose how to offer discounts in different ways compared to our competitors.”
Readers raised concerns about one of those schemes – the Multilink pass.
Some holders say they are finding it difficult to book ferries due to slots being unavailable, but when they get on the ferry it is often not very busy.
Mr Greenfield said in order to keep Multilink costs lower, Wightlink needs to “protect space” on its vessels for “full price traffic”.
Asked whether this was an example of Wightlink prioritising customers paying more, he said: “There’s no prioritisation based on how much fare you pay.
“We can offer Multilink by restricting capacity to 15 per cent on all sailings.”
On the possibility of a public service obligation being introduced, to ensure standards are up to a certain level, Mr Greenfield said he would have to see what it entailed but he questions what might be achieved by it.
He also said syncing boat and train arrivals is probably as good as it can be, but the firm will continue to work to improve connections.
“One person’s good connection is somebody else’s poor connection so we have to try and balance it”, he said.
He added Wightlink is introducing late-night sailings to its Lymington to Yarmouth route from next year, as per requests from customers.
As the County Press previously reported, they will also continue on the Ryde to Portsmouth FastCat service.