Swanage businesses stand to lose money now that the Sandbanks chain ferry has been taken out of service for six weeks.
The ferry, which crosses Poole Harbour between Sandbanks and Shell Bay was taken for a refit on the 3rd of November. Local business owners have expressed fears of suffering significantly reduced earnings as customers need to travel further. “They always say it will be closed for six weeks but it always takes longer,” said Caroline Fitch, president of Swanage Chamber of Trade & Commerce. “Last time it was for around eight weeks. The repairs always occur before Christmas, when businesses in Swanage have the most work. The way around is much longer and people don’t feel like coming over.” Fitch suggested that it would be more convenient to close the ferry in late December and January when schools and businesses are closed.
Swanage and Bournemouth residents are also facing difficulties commuting as a result of the disruption, with journeys taking a longer time. The number 50 bus that connects Swanage and Studland with Bournemouth and surrounding towns is expected to be delayed every day for at least 40 minutes while the ferry is out of action.
Ann Burt, a recruitment officer from Swanage, said the discontinuation was going to be difficult for her, “I live in Swanage and I travel to Bournemouth every day for work,” she said. “This has a huge negative effect on me. It’s very inconvenient. If I get the ferry it takes 50 minutes door to door, but having to drive for at least an hour and a half can be really bothersome. I am driving a little girl every day to school, and it’s very hard for her as well.”
Repairs to the ferry have taken place every few years since 1923. Business owners and commuters have suggested different solutions, such as a replacement ferry or bridge. However the Sandbanks Ferry Company and Poole Borough Council have rejected these options. Steve Dean, a senior traffic engineer for Poole Council, said the council has just built a smaller bridge in Poole costing more than £40M, and therefore there are no plans to build another one. “Regarding an alternative ferry, it is run by a private company and we can’t intervene,” he said.
Sue Marsh, assistant general manager of the Sandbanks Ferry Company, said: “We waited for the summer to be over because it is our busiest time of the year. During this period we don’t have as many tourists, but the weather is still good enough to take the ferry to Southampton for repairs. Replacement is out of the option because we only have one ferry.”