CAMPAIGNERS are concerned the Hayling Ferry may never be supported by a bus again after a ‘very poor’ response to a £20,000 council transport trial.
According to skipper Colin Hill no new commuters have taken to the service as part of a six-month drive launched by Havant Borough Council (HBC) in September.
The authority has footed £20,000 from its Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) fund to put on buses which are currently serving both the ferry’s landings at Hayling and Eastney.
But despite the links bridging the gaps from the ferry to its nearest bus stops, eyewitnesses have often spotted the bus on Hayling Island running empty on its route between Eastoke Corner and Ferry Road.
‘We ran for two years without the bus and our passenger numbers are very similar to two years ago – there is no change and we haven't seen any new commuters since the trial began,' said Mr Hill.
‘While it’s not ideal the uptake has been very poor, without the trial we would not have known that.’
He added: ‘I don't think there will ever be a bus service up to the ferry unless there is a complete change of attitude.’
Havant councillors voted in favour of the trial in July following months of meetings between backers of the Hayling Ferry, its owners and local politicians.
Hayling Island activist Mark Coates played a key part in those discussions and has described the low bus uptake as a 'catastrophic failure’.
He said: ‘I do not feel this has been a waste of £20,000 as much as it has been a waste of an opportunity.
‘At the very least we can say we have tried but I have no blame for Havant Borough Council in this because they worked tirelessly to make this trial happen.’
Councillor Tim Pike, who put forward the motion for the trial to receive cash from HBC’s CIL fund, confirmed Portsmouth City Coaches have lodged a notice to bring an end to their trial bus serving the Hayling landing.
He said: ‘The bus is not going to continue beyond its trial period because it has not been successful in generating passengers.
‘Clearly there is a lot of pressure on the A3023 and this trial was looking to see if people could be encouraged to go to Portsmouth by ferry instead, but they have not done that.
‘I think this trial has demonstrated some valuable information in terms of the way we must look to address this issue.
‘We are going to review that and respond as part of the transport assessment for the local plan in a few weeks’ time.’
‘We are not giving up and this issue has not gone away.’
On the future of the Hayling Ferry, its joint owner Tim Trayte added: ‘This certainly was an opportunity and we will study all the numbers over the coming months and will have three winters of operation to look at. We will make our mind up what will happen with the fourth winter this year.
'You can only run a service for so long without government backing and we are going to try and get funding still because that is the only way we will survive.'