A FERRY skipper has warned there may not be ‘much of a future’ for his service unless councillors and stakeholders vote to keep its overheads down.
The message from Hayling Ferry boss Colin Hill comes as the Langstone Harbour Board gears up to decide whether to renew the service’s reduced-rate licence at an AGM on Friday.
Board members last year voted to half the pontoon fees of the ferry, which serves Eastney and Hayling Island, in a bid to boost its profits and secure its long-term future.
If this is extended, Hayling Ferry owners Baker Trayte Marine could continue to pay the board 15p per passenger, per crossing for the first 50,000 people it carries each year – hiking to 30p thereafter.
Mr Hill said the decision could be the difference between a repeat of the ferry's 2015 collapse or its viability for years to come.
‘If we can carry that on we can build up a reserve for the ferry and try to stimulate more passenger numbers,' he said.
‘But personally I don't think there will be much of a future for the ferry if we go back to the original rates.
‘The ferry was running at a loss and no business can stand that.’
In months prior to the rates reduction the ferry was losing as much as £250 every day, with its owners paying the board £23,000 in pontoon and facility fees in 2017.
But after Mr Hill confirmed the service carried more than 19,800 cyclists alone throughout 2018, board member and Eastney councillor, Matthew Winnington, said things are starting to look up.
‘I will certainly be supporting the continuation of what we did last year,' he said.
‘It has been clearly shown it's giving the ferry stability.’
He added: ‘It's such an important part of our transport link and we can not take these things for granted.’
Fellow board member and councillor for Hayling West, Jo Thomas, said she would ‘assess the application on its merits’ but hailed the service as a ‘vital amenity to islanders, tourists and Portsmouth residents’.
‘It would be a desirable outcome for all to see the ferry continue and eventually thrive,' she added.
The AGM will take place at 2pm at the Civic Offices in Portsmouth Guildhall.