Portsmouth Lib Dem leads calls for First to extend bus route to boost revitalised Hayling Ferry

Hayling Ferry on the day of its relaunch earlier this month. Picture Mick Young
Hayling Ferry on the day of its relaunch earlier this month. Picture Mick Young
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A CAMPAIGN has been launched to extend a bus route to give the revitalised Hayling Ferry an added boost.

The First bus 15 service stopped going to the ferry’s drop-off point in Eastney earlier this year after Portsmouth City Council stopped funding the route.

My concern is, it could potentially take up to six weeks from now to implement this change, by which time we would have missed all the summer period and we would be getting well into the autumn.

Eastney Lib Dem councillor Matthew Winnington

Now the Lib Dems have put together a petition putting pressure on First to bring that leg of the journey back now that the Hayling Ferry is back in action.

The water taxi returned this month following a passionate campaign backed by billionaire Virgin tycoon Sir Richard Branson.

Eastney Lib Dem councillor Matthew Winnington, who is leading the petition, claims First general manager Dervla McKay told him the ferry stop would definitely come back if the water crossing to Hayling Island returned.

Yet he now says the company is going back on its word and wants to review the flow of passengers using the ferry first. Cllr Winnington said: ‘What this petition calls for is for the 15 bus to run back to the ferry as soon as possible, instead of terminating about 600 metres away.

‘This is all very well on a hot day, but in a freaky day in January, it’s not going to wash with people.

‘The bus stop down there is in pristine condition, and yet it is unused at the moment.

‘So this makes perfect sense.

‘My concern is, it could potentially take up to six weeks from now to implement this change, by which time we would have missed all the summer period and we would be getting well into the autumn.

‘That’s the time the usage of the ferry will drop off.’

It comes after the Hayling Ferry revealed it wants to be able to take passengers to and from Victorious Festival as it seeks to link up with big events. But there’s concern the ferry isn’t being helped by the lack of a ‘joined up transport strategy’.

Cllr Winnington said: ‘That service links The Hard down to the seafront, yet we have this gap in our transport infrastructure.’

And he fears the council’s Tory administration is not concerned. He said: ‘The whole thing is really poor.’

A First Bus spokesman said: ‘First Solent is open to extending the service 15 to include the Ferry, but as is the case with every commercial business decision, this has to based on a viable business case to ensure sustainability.

‘First Solent is in discussions with Portsmouth City Council and the Hayling Ferry operator to find a solution.’

The petition was set up on Friday, and has so far attracted close to 400 signatures.

To sign, visit supporttheferry.net