THE OWNERS of the Hayling Ferry say they will fight to keep running it after suggestions it should be contracted out to another company.
Langstone Harbour Board, which looks after the stretch of water between Portsmouth and Hayling, met yesterday to discuss the £10,000 it is owed for the use of pontoons by the ferry firm.
Until earlier this year, the £20,000 cost for the licence had been split between Hampshire County Council and Portsmouth City Council. But the city council has now withdrawn all funding.
It means the licence is only paid for up to March 2014. The ferry will have to find the other £10,000 to keep going after that.
Speaking at yesterday’s meeting at Portsmouth’s Civic Offices, Councillor Frank Pearce, who represents Hayling on the county council, said: ‘We’re concerned what’s going to happen after that.
‘The county council certainly does not want to see the service close. Up until now the subsidy has been £71,000, and a little bit more. I wonder what will happen on the day the licence runs out?’
He added: ‘My personal opinion is that we should put it out on the concession.
‘We seem to have quite a few problems with the Edwards family (the owners).’
Stephen Kerr, the clerk to the board, said the only way of doing that was to advertise the use of the pontoons for a ferry service. It is not down to the board to commission someone to operate a ferry service.
Harbour chairman Councillor Jackie Branson, from Havant Borough Council, said the board had tried to arrange meetings with the Edwards family but they hadn’t turned up.
Councillor Gerard Vernon-Jackson, leader of the city council told the meeting, ‘but they have been happy to accept the money’.
Frida Edwards, whose late husband Cyril bought the ferry from the county council 30 years ago, said she was amazed at the accusations at the meeting – which she did not attend.
Speaking afterwards she said they are only given £2,800 a month from the county council, not the figure quoted by Cllr Pearce.
She added: ‘How are they possibly going to put a private business out to a concession? It’s not possible.
‘They complain about subsidising the company but we provide public transport – just like the buses, just like the trains, and they are heavily subsidised.
‘I’ve been there for more than 30 years and they can’t take that away from me.
‘I have never not turned up to a meeting because I have never been asked to any.’
The ferry transports 65,000 passengers a year – mainly Hayling children going to Portsmouth schools.
It was agreed a temporary licence would be granted until March 2014. It will be discussed again in February.