City’s rethink keeps boat afloat

The Hayling Ferry crossing from Hayling Island to Eastney.
The Hayling Ferry crossing from Hayling Island to Eastney.
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A PASSENGER service which carries around 70,000 people a year between Eastney and Hayling Island has been saved.

The Hayling Ferry, which crosses between Eastney and the island, faced closure for good when Portsmouth City Council threatened to stop subsidising the service.

The council had planned to stop paying the £15,000 it contributes to help keep the single-craft Hayling Ferry company afloat, as part of its attempts to cut £15m from its budget.

But a last-minute intervention by the ferry company’s owner, who is also councillor in the borough of Havant, changed the city council’s mind.

Portsmouth City Council’s leader for transport, Cllr Jason Fazackarley, said: ‘We planned to stop paying the subsidy, because our officers advised us about 80 per cent of its users were Hayling Island residents. We felt Hampshire County Council should pay for the service, if it was Hampshire, rather than Portsmouth, residents who benefit more.’

The ferry makes 21 round trips each weekday day through the winter season, and 41 in the summer.

The same trip by road is more than 14 miles.

And without Portsmouth City Council’s subsidy, as well as almost £20,000 per year paid by Hampshire County Council, it would be unable to operate.

Cllr Fazackarley said: ‘I’m very pleased we’ve been able to save the service. Havant councillor Frida Edwards came in with statistics from the company, and showed us how much it was used and valued, so we found the money.’

Cllr Edwards, whose family has run the ferry company since 1981, and is its owner, said: ‘I went to see the council and I’m pleased they listened. We rely on these subsidies to provide the service.’

Hayling Ferry’s operations manager Ian Gall, said: ‘We’d have shut down without the cash.

‘We carry lots of people, schoolchildren who go to Portsmouth schools, people who work in the city, and in the summer lots of tourists, too. We’re delighted to have been saved.’

The cash for the subsidy has come from the council’s companion bus pass scheme, which has had just eight people ask for an application pack, and no completed applications.

The scheme, which allows people with mental disabilities, and blind people, to travel by bus with a companion for free, was stopped last year, but has been restarted.

The council set aside £40,000 for the programme, but Cllr Fazackarley said: ‘We haven’t had any applicants. It’s a bit of a surprise. But we’ve been able to use that money, and we still have a ferry service, and cash left for people who do apply.’