THE return of the Hayling Ferry is now looking like a real possibility.
Hampshire County Council is opening the tendering process for a new company to take over the ferry link between Eastney and Hayling.
The service has been suspended since March after the family which owned it for 30 years, the Edwards’, went bankrupt.
Passenger ferries Tina Marie and the Pride of Hayling were put up for auction and are believed to have been bought by a consortium who want to reinstate it.
Paul Duffield, the owner of Nauti, which charters boats and provides off-shore support, has confirmed that he is one of the bidders hoping to take over the ferry service.
But he would not comment on whether he bought the ferries in the auction earlier this month.
Philip Davies, from the administrators Hickman-Shearer, said it was a ‘confidential transaction’ and the buyer would have to give more details.
Now council officials have confirmed they are considering who to give a subsidy to help run the service.
A spokeswoman said: ‘In the absence of an operator taking over the service without subsidy, the county council is preparing a tender for a supported service which will be available to all interested parties, several of whom have contacted the council.
‘The previous operator was paid on a monthly basis and payments stopped when the service ceased.’
The county council had previously helped to pay the £20,000-a-year pontoon fees in Langstone Harbour.
Hayling West Councillor Andy Lenaghan said: ‘We are moving in the right direction for it to be reinstated.’
Hayling East Councillor Leah Turner said: ‘The ferry provides a really good service for schoolchildren, particularly going down to Portsmouth.
‘In the summer it’s a brilliant service for tourists.
‘It’s an important part of our transport system.
‘I think it’s been missed.
‘It would be lovely to see it running again.’
Under the previous owners the ferry service was plagued by problems. It was regularly out of action due to technical issues and last year the firm was fined for carrying too many passengers.