BILLIONAIRE Richard Branson could be the saviour of the Hayling Ferry.
The Virgin tycoon has been written to by campaigners seeking the reinstatement of the vital service, which has been out of action for more than a year after the previous owners went bust.
And Virgin officials have confirmed Branson is looking into the sponsorship proposals. Branson has a soft spot for the island, having taken part in the Virgin Kitesurfing Armada.
The boat currently sits in Camber Dock, Old Portsmouth.
About £40,000 of subsidy would be needed to support the new owners, Baker Trayte Marine, in its first year, together with the prospect of further subsidy funding continuing in the second year.
It comes as efforts to reinstate the service gather momentum. A detailed business case is now with the Langstone Harbour Board (LHB).
Some £10,000 has been pledged from community infrastructure funding by Portsmouth councillors.
And the LHB vice-chairwoman, Cllr Jackie Branson, told The News the authority might be prepared to look at reducing the current licence fee of £19,000-a-year, although nothing has been agreed.
A letter from campaigners, spearheaded by islander Alan Vallis, said: ‘Mr Branson, the people of Hayling would be indebted to you if you could see your way to getting in touch with Baker and Trayte and offering to sponsor the ferry, or offer some other solution in our hour of need.
‘We would be proud to see the Virgin logo on the side of The Pride of Hayling or on shore-based advertising boards, should that be an arrangement they are comfortable with.
‘We enjoy our association with you and are hopeful you can strengthen that bond and help our little island.
‘Please, help our old people have better transport links, help our schoolchildren get to school in Southsea, help Natural England complete their scenic coastal pathway route and help us reduce CO2 emissions.’
A statement from Virgin said: ‘Richard is looking into the sponsorship proposal and business plan to see how he might be able to mobilise wider support from the kitesurfing community in order to save the ferry.’