Dorset

Call for Sandbanks Ferry firm to lose right to operate

Sandbanks Ferry Image copyright Ian Capper
Image caption With the ferry not operating the four-minute crossing, people face a 25-mile (40km) diversion

A ferry operator should lose its right to operate the service which has been put out of action for three months, a parish council has said.

Work on the Sandbanks Ferry, which links Swanage and Poole, is expected to last until October.

Studland Parish Council said residents wanted to "break the monopoly held by the ferry company".

It said it hoped the ferry's right to operate would be overturned by an act of Parliament.

Fairacres Group, which runs the ferry, said it had been "struggling" to hire a stand-in vessel.

'Rather fed up'

The Bramble Bush Bay was taken out of service on 12 July after its drive shaft broke. With the ferry not running the four-minute crossing, people face a 25-mile (40km) diversion.

Parish council vice-chairman Nick Boulter said many attending the meeting on Wednesday were "visibly quite distressed".

He said: "It's having a really bad impact on businesses. They could offer to run an alternative service."

Mr Boulter said Essex-based Fairacres Group was given "no performance standards at all so they can do what they like".

"Accounts show that Fairacres have invested £23m in their hotel business over the last seven years, but little in the ferry," he added.

He said he had written to the Department for Transport in the hope of overturning the company's right to operate, which was first granted by an Act of Parliament in 1923.

The ferry was suspended for nearly three months last winter due to annual maintenance and then a hydraulic issue. It only ran on two days between 29 October and 28 January.

Fairacres Group applied for a tolls revision order claiming it needed the rise to fund a new vessel, but the secretary of state for transport refused the bid in December.

In a statement, the firm said it was "struggling" to hire a stand-in ferry due to "a number of reasons including mainly but not limited to strong tides and inappropriate landing facilities".

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