INCREASES to fares for using the Sandbanks Ferry will cost commuters an extra £800 a year, campaigners said on the last day of a public inquiry into the issue.

In January the ferry company announced its proposals, which include the doubling of the cost of a pedestrian crossing from £1 to £2, citing the need to replace the boat.

However, residents have hit-out at the rises saying that, if approved, regular commuters will be paying an extra £800 every year.

The ferry’s owners, The Bournemouth-Swanage Motor Road and Ferry Company, outlined its plan to increase the cost for a car crossing from £4.50 to £6 and from £8.60 to £12 for larger vehicles.

Outlining its case for the rises at the start of the two-day public inquiry in Studland, the company’s representatives said that they were needed to cover the costs of its planned purchase of a new £10.7m ferry within the next decade.

More than a dozen residents raised their concerns on the second day of the hearing, saying that people living on the Isle of Purbeck would be hardest hit.

Debbie Anderson, joint coordinator of the Sandbanks Ferry Toll Increase Action Group, said: “The lack of meaningful discounts offered to locals and the proposed increase in tolls was of principle concern as this will see an increase of over £800 per year for a full-time commuter using the ferry which will further disadvantage locals living in the Isle of Purbeck.

“All the objectors demonstrated many reasons why the increases should not be approved and we hope that the inspector requests a forensic examination of the ferry company’s accounts to understand, amongst other things, their demand to have a ‘reasonable’ level of dividends based on a value of the assets that could not be justified by the company.

“This coupled with the lack of ring-fencing of the ferry replacement reserve fund has meant that the reserve has fluctuated over the years whilst the customers have repeatedly been asked to endure toll increases to help fund a future ferry replacement.”

Similar fare rises were approved following a public inquiry in 2014 with the company saying that the extra money was needed to resurface Ferry Road as well as build up funds for the new ferry.

Ms Anderson added: “The concern of many locals given the historic moving target of the ferry replacement date and its estimated cost is that a subsequent application will be made in another three years’ time requesting a further increase, and we will yet again see insufficient reserves held by the company and a further forecasted increase in a new ferry.”

Government-appointed inspector Kenneth Stone will make a decision on whether to approve the toll increase in the coming months.