Town could be left with no ferry route
A Hampshire ferry service used by thousands of passengers every year is unlikely to be replaced if WightLink pulls out, the Daily Echo can reveal.
Rival operator Red Funnel says it is not interested in taking over the Lymington to Yarmouth route which is at the centre of a row over plans to introduce larger ferries.
WightLink has threatened to axe the service if permission for the new boats is refused.
Red Funnel, which operates a Southampton to East Cowes ferry service, is unlikely to breach the gap.
A company spokesman said: "Red Funnel views Southampton as the natural gateway to the Isle of Wight and is fully committed to growing and enhancing its existing services."
WightLink's new ferries, currently being built in Croatia, will displace almost twice as much water as the existing ones.
Campaigners claim that the 1,496-ton ships will damage environmentally sensitive parts of the Lymington River as well as posing a hazard to other vessels.
New Forest West MP Desmond Swayne said: "If what some people are saying is correct, this looks like a disaster waiting to happen. People are very wise to get agitated and pursue the matter through a public meeting."
Asked about WightLink's threat to withdraw the service Mr Swayne said: "Communities should not be threatened in that way. This sort of posturing is unhelpful - a more measured, cool-headed approach is needed.
"The Lymington River is very important from the yachting and recreational point of view and is also an important commercial avenue to the Isle of Wight.
"We've got to find a way of making sure that the community wins and that might take a bit of give and take on both sides."
In a letter to Mr Swayne, WightLink's chief executive, Andrew Willson confirms that almost 200 jobs will be lost if the company scraps its Lymington to Yarmouth service.
The letter says the current ferries are 34 years old and nearing the end of their useful lives.
It adds: "Without the introduction of the new ferries the route would inevitably have to be closed down, which would have a detrimental affect on the economies of Lymington and Yarmouth.
"It would also be disastrous for the travelling public."
The letter says any larger wash from the new ferries could be overcome by reducing speed.
The public meeting will be held at Lymington Community Centre on October 31 at 7.30pm.