Two additional return sailings to the Isle of Wight are being introduced by Red Funnel Ferries from the spring.

An 8.10 pm departure from Southampton to Cowes on Fridays is being added from March 27, designed to cater for a growing number of short-break and weekend visitors to the island from London.

An early morning 2.40am departure on weekdays will provide additional freight capacity.

Some other sailings are being re-timed as part of a new timetable which comes into force at the same time.

Additional services will operate during the Isle of Wight Festival, Bestival and the Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week.

The extra capacity is being introduced after the company saw a record year in 2014 for vehicles carried, fueled by growth in the total cross-Solent ferry market of 0.7% for passengers and 1.5% for cars.

Red Funnel saw a 3.7% increase in customers using its West Cowes Red Jet route and carried 7.8% more passengers, 9.7% more cars, 10.8% more coaches and 9.6% more freight vehicles on its Southampton-East Cowes service.

The company claimed to have increased its share of the car cross-Solent market to a record 39.7% from 36.8% in 2013 and its total passenger share to 38.5% from 36.4%.

Chief executive Kevin George said: “Our strategy of offering competitive fares, investing in our ships and terminals and training our staff to deliver superb levels of service is changing the perceptions of Red Funnel. This is making us the first choice for an increasing number of visitors.

“Looking ahead, this year promises to continue the momentum with Red Osprey returning to service at Easter following her £2.2 million refurbishment which mirrors Red Falcon, the finalisation of plans for our new terminals in Southampton and East Cowes and there is even more exciting news on the horizon.”