THE SKIPPER of the Hayling Ferry has said there is a ‘glimmer of light on the horizon’ as discussions to make the service viable for the future go on.
Leading hand for the Hayling to Eastney link, Colin Hill, said proceedings are ‘all going in the right direction’, following the latest meeting of its bosses and backers.
Since January, Havant and Hampshire councillors, ferry operators and supporters have united in a bid to create a business plan to secure the service’s future in the wake of financial difficulties.
The biggest issues the ferry faces, they say, are the lack of bus links at its landing grounds and the absence of an authority subsidy, after Hampshire County Council cut its annual funding in 2015.
But as discussions continue – just over a year and a half after the ferry was revived to roaring fanfare – Mr Hill says action to secure both of these aspects are ‘progressing’.
‘Our application for a county council subsidy is about 80 per cent complete’, he said.
‘We are waiting to get March’s accounts together so we can submit a full summary of the ferry’s past year for our business plan.
‘This is a process that takes time and it has to be done correctly as we may only have one shot.’
At the most recent meeting, bosses heard the latest in the saga to secure a bus service on the ferry’s Hayling side – which is being handled by Havant Borough Council’s lead for infrastructure, councillor Tim Pike.
A 17-seater minibus could be bought using community infrastructure levy funds.
This idea, said Mr Hill, has already garnered ‘28 volunteer drivers’ and would likely run on donations, not fares.
And it is hoped the would-be solution could soon be matched on the ferry’s Portsmouth side – which has an 800m gap from the Eastney landing to its nearest bus stop – thanks to Portsmouth representatives appearing at a Hayling Ferry meeting for the first time last Wednesday.
Liberal Democrat councillor for Eastney and Craneswater, Matthew Winnington, who has long backed the ferry’s sustainability, was one of a handful of city figures present – which Mr Hill described as ‘really encouraging’.
He said: ‘This problem can not be solved in isolation. The Hayling Ferry serves both sides and it needs solutions which reflect that.
‘I will be pushing for practical results, because to strike up any deal with First buses on the Portsmouth side, we desperately need to take the issue of integrated transport seriously.’
Labour MP for Portsmouth South, Stephen Morgan, who had representatives at the meeting, added: ‘I recognise the important role the Hayling Ferry can have in enabling an integrated transport network across the Solent region and encouraging economic growth in our city. If any constituent has thoughts or ideas on how the service can grow I would be delighted to hear their views.’