Navy escort for Olympic Torch’s trip across the harbour on the Gosport Ferry

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IT USUALLY carries hundreds of passengers across the waters of Portsmouth Harbour each day.

But the Gosport Ferry will have a rather special role on Sunday when the Olympic torch relay comes to the area.

The Olympic flame will travel across the harbour on board the Spirit of Gosport to continue its journey through Portsmouth.

And the ferry will be led across the water by the Royal Navy’s patrol and training vessel HMS Exploit.

The Spirit of Gosport will also be flanked on either side by two historic vessels from the Portsmouth Naval Base Property Trust.

Keith Edwards, the general manager of the Gosport Ferry, said: ‘It’s a once-in-a-lifetime job and everybody is really keen to get involved.

‘We were really pleased that we got it and we would thank the Queen’s Harbour Master for their help.

‘They staff are quite excited about it and we will carry guests on board at the time which will be the staff and their family.

‘The Mayor of Gosport will hopefully be travelling with us too.’

When it’s on the ferry the Olympic flame will be carried inside a lantern.

The torch is expected to leave Gosport at 5.48pm and arrive at the historic dockyard for 6pm.

Once at the dockyard, torchbearers will carry the flame up to the Victory arena.

From there it will leave the dockyard through Queen Street and move on through the city towards Southsea Common.

The deputy leader of Gosport Borough Council, Councillor Graham Burgess, said: ‘It is an honour for the torch to come to Gosport.

‘The ferry’s motto is “It’s shorter by water” so it makes sense for it to go across that way.

‘We’re all part of it and it’s a big day for Gosport.

‘It should be a really good day.

‘Let’s just hope the weather holds out a bit longer.’

Torchbearers begin their journey through our area in Fareham at 4.30pm on July 15.

It then travels down the A32 and into Gosport, heading along Privett Road, Bury Road, Stoke Road and the High Street.

In lantern form, the flame crosses Portsmouth Harbour for its journey through the city centre.

It ends with a huge party on Southsea Common, with live music from chart-toppers Rizzle Kicks.

In Gosport, there will be a sports-themed celebration in Walpole Park and another party along the A32 in Bridgemary.

The torch will stay in the city overnight before setting off again from Fratton Park the next morning.

Schools in Portsmouth have agreed to postpone compulsory attendance in lessons until 10am to allow youngsters to wave off the flame.