Ferry operator Stena Line
is to start carrying foot passengers on its Holyhead to Dublin Adventurer service for the first time.
From July 1 passengers will be able to walk on to the ship, which until now was a drive-on service only.
This weekend it emerged the company plans to slow down its high speed Explorer service between Holyhead and Dun Laoghaire by 16 minutes to save costs in the face of rising fuel prices.
From July the Explorer's journey time will increase from the current 99 minutes to 115.
The Stena Explorer HSS was designed in the 1990s on the calculation oil would remain at about $20 a barrel.
Last year Stena warned its fast services would be axed if oil reached $100 a barrel, and in recent weeks fuel prices have hit $130 in recent weeks.
This weekend Nick Tilson, UK communications director for the Irish Sea operator, said the slow down would help "trim" the company's fuel bill.
He said: "It's a case of battening down the hatches and try to ride it out."
Yesterday Vic Goodwin, Stena Line
's director for Irish Sea routes, confirmed the move to slow the route and introduce foot passengers on the Adventurer, but he declined to comment on speculation the Explorer fast ferry would be withdrawn.
He said: "We have been looking at the option of a service for foot passengers on the Stena Adventurer for a while now as the vessel has grown in popularity with our tourist customers.
"The commencement of a foot passenger service will strengthen the overall Stena Line
product in conjunction with our fast craft service, the HSS Stena Explorer, which operates between Holyhead and Dun Laoghaire."
Buses will be used to bring passengers to the Adventurer at both ports.
When the Adventurer was introduced Stena Line
said it would not accept foot passengers on the ship because there were no gangways at Holyhead or Dublin to connect with the ship and hence it would compromise safety.
An insider said: "This has taken place for some years already on the Irish Ferries
fast ferry, Jonathan Swift, at both Holyhead and Dublin. After the cars have been loaded the bus drives out to the boat and the passengers walk up the stairs to the passenger decks."
The ferry operator has already slashed the frequency of sailings by the Stena Explorer on the Irish Sea route.
The Explorer, which can carry 1,500 passengers, currently makes the crossing in 99 minutes, about half the time taken for the conventional ferry Stena Adventurer on the Holyhead-Dublin route.
Initially it made four crossings in each direction each day but now makes just two return crossings.
The Stena Adventurer, which can carry up to 1,500 passengers, began sailing on the route in July 2003.
, Stena Line
's rival, operates two ships on the busy Irish Sea route. The superferry Ulysses and fastferry Jonathan Swift both cross twice daily.