BILLIONAIRE Richard Branson has given his backing to the Hayling Ferry – and in doing so has ensured its triumphant return.
The Virgin tycoon has responded to tweets for help following a story in The News in April in which people were pleading for his support for the ferry, which has been out of action for almost 18 months.
Sir Richard, who is not known for giving out many donations, has awarded £5,000 towards the reinstatement.
He is a fan of Hayling Island, having supported the Virgin Kitesurfing Armada Festival, which begins tomorrow.
It comes as the Hayling Ferry Trust was officially launched yesterday.
The trust will manage funding and support for the ferry operator to ensure the link between Portsmouth and Hayling Island can survive for many years to come.
It is hoped the ferry – which is currently undergoing a safety inspection – will be back on the water next month, operated by Portsmouth-based Baker Trayte Marine.
The trust is now aiming to raise a total of £40,000 and is hopeful of more donations coming in from other bodies, businesses and members of the public.
Sir Richard said ‘The residents of Hayling have always made us feel so welcome when we’ve been on the island.
‘When we heard about the difficulties the much-needed ferry was having, we knew we had to step up and do our bit.
‘Hopefully now we will soon see the remaining funds raised and the ferry returning back to action.’
Clare Satchwell, from Hayling Island, who is leading the launch of the trust, said: ‘We have been working very hard to bring back the ferry and everything is in place to get it started again we just need money and local support.
‘Richard Branson and the Virgin Kitesurfing Armada team responded to calls for help from local residents.
‘This is amazing news and we are confident that we can get the remaining funds required to get the ferry back up and running really quickly.’
Ms Satchwell said having Sir Richard’s endorsement is just the kickstart the trust needs.
The Virgin logo may be a feature of the restored ferry, along with other potential business sponsors.
Mark Coates, a resident who wrote to Sir Richard in April, said: ‘It’s about opening up links, regenerating the island, and giving people the opportunity to enjoy the fantastic coastal bike rides.’
Dan Charlish, from the Virgin Kitesurfing Armada, said: ‘It’s a beautiful island, has great kitesurfing conditions and most importantly a great community. We hope our donation is the first of many and the ferry is back out on the water soon.’
The trust is now calling on businesses, residents and local authorities to pull together and raise the £40,000 needed.
Ms Satchwell said: ‘The passion from residents for the ferry is so clear, we are crowdfunding and advanced ticket vouchers can be purchased now.’
The trust will have a presence on Saturday at the kitesurfing festival and a drop-in session is being held at Hayling Island Community Centre between 3pm and 6pm next Thursday.