A RECORD number of passengers have used the Hayling Ferry its first two months back.
Around 12,000 commuters used the Pride of Hayling boat to get between the island and Eastney in August alone.
Clare Satchwell, co-founder of the Hayling Ferry Trust, led the battle to bring the service back.
She said that the ferry is now ‘living up to its community roots’.
Ms Satchwell said: ‘The turnout has been beyond anybody’s estimate. It proved how much people loved the ferry.
‘Without the community it would not have come back, they were integral in the revival. What we need people to do now is think of the ferry all year round, whether they’re going to the football, meeting friends, going for a cycle or even taking their dog for a walk.’
Chief skipper Colin Hill said he was surprised but delighted at the turnout for the ferry’s relaunch on August 5, having transported more than 700 people on the first day.
He said: ‘It was far greater than my expectation.
‘Especially in August, we had plenty of people from Portsmouth coming to enjoy the beaches on Hayling, but we also had people staying at the holiday camps on Hayling going to check out the attractions in Portsmouth.’
Passenger numbers dropped to 5,104 in September, with the end of the summer holidays, but Mr Hill remains optimistic about the future of the ferry.
He believes that a restoration in funding from Hampshire County Council ‘could go a long way’.
The authority previously put more than £300,000 into the service between 2008 and 2015, but cut its funding of the ferry in August 2015.
He said: ‘The school holidays and the nice weather definitely helped in terms of increased footfall.
‘I don’t understand why the council can’t fund it any more, considering the number of cars we take off the road.
‘We are doing our bit to alleviate congestion on Hayling’s roads but the council are not helping us.’
Concerns have been raised over the lack of public transport on either side of the ferry.
Ms Satchwell says that the trust is ‘looking at lots of different options’, while Mr Hill is preparing a passenger questionnaire to aid talks between Portsmouth City Council and bus operators First Bus.
He said: ‘Some older people don’t get on the ferry any more because there’s no buses to pick them up. The Hayling Islanders would love to have a service of some description, but the buses are not connecting people to the ferry at all.’
The ferry went out of action in March 2015 following financial problems, but it was revived through crowdfunding and a big-name benefactor.
Billionaire tycoon Richard Branson chipped in £5,000 towards the reinstatement, while residents raised £15,000.