THE Sandbanks ferry is back in action, with a “reduced service” operating from 10am on Monday, January 28.

The news brings relief for locals who have been without the link from Poole to Studland since October.

Its operators said it would only be running a half-hourly service, from 7am to 7.15pm, in order to reduce wear and tear while stocks of spare parts were low.

The ferry failed to return from its annual refit last autumn, other than for two days in December when a hydraulic leak was reported.

A statement from the Bournemouth-Swanage Motor Road and Ferry Company said: “The Sandbanks Ferry was withdrawn from service on December 21 following a severe hydraulic leak on the high pressure drive system. Our engineers and staff, along with a multitude of contractors, have been working tirelessly to return the ferry to service.

“Repairs following this leak have been concluded and the Marine & Coastguard Agency signed us off as safe to resume service. However, during testing, mechanical drive system issues were discovered, that were unrelated to the leak. Since that point a succession of challenges arose which have been repaired. Unfortunately we are now left with a shortage of spares for the drive system.”

The ferry will leave from Sandbanks on the hour and half-hour, and from Studland at quarter past and quarter to each hour.

The company said: “The reason we cannot operate a full service is that we have had to reduce the speed of the ferry in order to reduce wear and strain on the drive train whilst our stocks of spares have been utilised in these unforeseeable circumstances.

“We have been undergoing testing over the weekend which has shown that we can operate safely like this. At some point we will need to suspend service again whilst the replacement parts are fitted. However this will be planned, with shifts working 24 hours a day and tasks being overlapped to minimise the time out of service.

“We sincerely apologise to all our valued customers for this inconvenience, but can only assure you that we are working as hard as we can to return the ferry to full service as soon as possible.”

The absence of the ferry had left drivers facing a 40-mile trip from Swanage to Poole.

Councillors and traders had been demanding action to end the hold-ups.

The chair of Studland Parish Council had accused the ferry company of “holding the community to ransom” and called for a public inquiry into the operation of the crossing.