WIGHTLINK'S new £30 million car ferry Victoria of Wight carried her first fare-paying passengers today (Sunday).

Since she arrived in the Solent around two weeks ago, Wightlink staff have been working on the ferry's finishing touches.

Powered by hybrid energy, Victoria of Wight uses a combination of battery power and conventional engines to link Portsmouth and Fishbourne with minimal emissions and more quietly than the rest of the fleet.

Victoria of Wight can carry 178 cars and more than a thousand passengers. There are Wight Taste and Costa Coffee outlets onboard, together with a children’s play area, gaming area and a range of comfortable seating including panoramic lounges at the front of both passenger decks.

The Francis family from Hammersmith, London, were the first people to drive on board Wightlink’s 10.30am sailing from Portsmouth – the first crossing to Fishbourne by Victoria of Wight. They are staying in a cottage in Brading for a week.

John Francis said: “When we booked our family holiday we had no idea we would be one of the first to travel on such an impressive ship. Victoria of Wight looks more like a cruise liner than a ferry.

“My wife Bernadette and I haven’t been to the Isle of Wight for many years and it will be Sam and Isobel’s first time. We’re definitely going to do the Red Squirrel trail by bike.”

Wightlink chief executive Keith Greenfield said: “This is an important milestone for Wightlink and I was delighted to welcome our first customers on board this morning.

"Victoria of Wight brings a new era of modern and environmentally friendly transport to the Solent.”

Now Victoria of Wight has joined Wightlink’s fleet, she will be regularly carrying passengers. However, more crews need to be trained to operate her and this will take place on quieter midweek days this autumn when she will be withdrawn from regular service.

Wightlink’s £30million flagship Victoria of Wight is part of the company’s £45million investment in the Portsmouth to Fishbourne route.

£15million has been spent on port improvements to permit double deck loading of both Victoria of Wight and St Clare ferries.