AFTER months of frank discussions around its future, the Hayling Ferry has been given a chance to operate at full strength.
From Monday, September 24, the Langstone Harbour service will be supported by connecting bus services at its Hayling and Eastney landings.
The lack of these links until now has plagued its operators, who have struggled to make money during the winter months or appeal to customers who do not drive.
But thanks to months of community campaigning, an agreement for a six-month bus trial has now been struck between Portsmouth City Council (PCC), Havant Borough Council (HBC) and transport providers on both sides.
First Solent will extend its 15 service to the Eastney landing and a £20,000, 20-plus seater community bus will serve Hayling.
The long-awaited verdict has delighted the ferry’s skipper, Colin Hill, who says it has taken ‘a lot of hard work’.
‘I’m proud to say things are looking good for us,' he said.
‘Now when the buses get going, people have the opportunity to get out of their cars, use the bus and the ferry and basically travel anywhere along a route between Eastoke and Commercial Road.’
The linked service will initially operate hourly from Monday to Friday.
Buses will leave Eastney Point on the hour between 7am and 4pm, with last buses departing at 5.14pm and 6.14pm - with a view to assessing the option of extending to Saturdays and holiday periods.
As previously reported HBC's deputy leader, councillor Tim Pike, announced cash for a community bus trial had been secured from the authority's Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) pot in July.
It was this tipping point which encouraged First Solent to finalise their support - much to the delight of council bosses on both sides of the harbour.
PCC's cabinet member for traffic and transport, Cllr Lynne Stagg, said: 'I hope this trial run is successful and will demonstrate to the Langstone Harbour Board how important both councils feel the ferry is and encourage them to support it as much as possible.'
Mr Pike added: 'The future of bus services depend on good patronage, and I particularly encourage residents who commute to Portsmouth to look at using this option for their journeys.
'If this trial is successful, we will look to extend the service to weekends to benefit tourism in 2019.'
It is hoped the trial will also lead to less pollution on the A3023 - the one road on and off Hayling Island.
If it proves to be commercially viable for parties on both sides of the harbour, it will be extended by another six months after the first half-year elapses.
Now an integral part of the ferry’s chance to shine, Marc Reddy, managing director at First Solent said: ‘It’s great that we’re now in a position to offer a bus connection to the Eastney landing area, which will make it much easier for people to travel to and from Hayling Island using public transport.
‘We hope as many people as possible will use the service during the coming trial period.’