BUSINESSES both sides of the Poole Harbour entrance say profits are being hammered by the shock suspension of Sandbanks Ferry services.

Calls for the authorities to step in and take control of the situation are continuing to surface, with one Studland resident saying it feels like they’ve been left marooned.

On Tuesday the Daily Echo reported how the troubled ferry, which needed urgent repairs, would be out of action until October, while yesterday we reported Studland Parish Council planned to write to the Department of Transport to ask for the ferry company to be stripped of its licence.

On a visit to both sides of the crossing yesterday we spoke to traders, residents and holidaymakers affected by the closure.

Mark Clarke, owner of the Haven Ferry Shop which is next to the ferry on the Sandbanks side, described the recent developments as “disastrous” for trade.

“I am at least 60 per cent down,” he said. “Because of our location right next to the ferry I would say that 70 or 80 per cent of our customers are all ferry trade.

“Normally they are queuing right outside the shop, stopped for 20 minutes, and they pop in.

“Through the winter it didn’t affect me too much, I can live with that. But my big six weeks are the summer holidays, so this is huge for us.”

Mark says that despite neighbouring the ferry, he rarely receives any information about what is going on.

Asked what the ramifications could be for his business, he said: “Well, I will survive. I’m in a fortunate position as I own the freehold here so I’m not paying rent.

“Not like a lot of businesses affected. A lot of businesses are paying £20,000 or £30,000 a year rent, so for them it is a lot more serious.

“But I still have my overheads and this time now is when I take my money to tide me across for the winter.

“At the moment there are at least a few people around, but as soon as those kids go back to school it could change.

“September can be a real steady month but my fear is trade will really be affected.”

Mark believes someone in some kind of authority has to step in now.

“As far as I am concerned there has been a lack of investment over the years and it has all come to a head. There is no way that ferry should have been out all of that time in the winter and have broken down for the summer – it affects thousands of people.”

Ferry services were withdrawn on July 12, with users told urgent repairs were needed, with no services running until August 12. But, this week, the company delivered the bombshell that it would be out of action until October, turning the summer season on its head for local businesses and a host of events.

Bournemouth resident and keen cyclist Mike Bellamy, below, had ridden to the ferry terminal on the Poole side.

He said: “If I was feeling energetic, I’d probably have a sit down in Studland then cycle on into Swanage and have a cup of coffee there.”

With the ferry out of action Mike, like many others, will not be boosting takings for Purbeck shops, cafes and restaurants.

Mike said: “It is very inconvenient at the moment, especially with all the events over in Swanage at the moment.

“I would have taken the Breezer across to the jazz festival or the Swanage Carnival which is running this week, but I’m not going now. I know the Breezer is going the long way around, but it takes forever.”

Morebus operates the Purbeck Breezer bus service around the road route and, when it is working, uses the chain ferry.

On the other side of the crossing at Studland – a 25-mile distance by road – there is a similar story.

Jossy Parsons, owner of Studland Stores, said footfall had significantly reduced since the ferry had stopped running.

She said: “The majority of our customers are holidaymakers and they come from the other side. The fact they are having to queue all around the roads is putting them off from coming.”

Jossy thinks the way forward is to take the ferry service out of the hands of private operators

“This is our busiest time of the year and there is no-one around, it should be packed here but at the moment it is just like a ghost village.”

Studland Stores staff member Laura Harwood said her usual 45 minute journey now takes her more than two hours.

“It is horrendous,” she said. “That ferry is very important to this community.”

Meanwhile, village resident Kim Elliott told the Echo a visitor of hers had to be taken to hospital recently.

“The person had a stroke two weeks before and all of a sudden he had numbness down one side, so we called an ambulance.

“They were quick coming, but then to get him to Poole took them a long, long time. It was just a nightmare to get him all the way around.”

Kim said so many of the businesses are struggling, and things will only get worse if it keeps dragging on.

“It feels like we have been marooned,” said Kim. “It’s a lovely island to be marooned on but it is affecting so many people, so many businesses.”

Julie Dyball, who has set up the Ferry Action Group (FAG) which represents several businesses and individuals in Studland, said: “From our point of view the ferry needs to stop being seen as an attraction for holidaymakers, instead in needs to be seen as an integral part of the infrastructure of Purbeck and the conurbation.

“We have the second largest harbour in the world and yet this is the only passenger ferry that operates regularly. We are being held to ransom by it.

“The ferry company always argues they don’t have a monopoly. Whenever we argue they do they say, no, because you can drive around. But you cannot walk around.

“There needs to be a viable passenger alternative on standby whenever this sort of thing happens.

“I am not slagging off the people who work on the ferry as they are really nice, hard working people.

“All we ask for is some competition and something in place when unforeseen stoppages occur like this.”

While the tourist trade is suffering during the service suspension, many of the thousands of motorists forced onto the congested alternative routes into the Bournemouth conurbation feel their voices are not being heard.

Paul Lepton, a Purbeck resident, said: “We sit on the A351 Sandford Road throughout the morning and evening rush-hour, you would think we were on the M25.

“We have to make this journey to work and back every day and when the ferry is running it is hugely noticeable, the journey time by road can be cut in half. Someone needs to step up and take control of this issue and provide a service fit for purpose.

“The current situation, with a ferry that is wholly unreliable, is unacceptable.”

According to ferry operators Bournemouth-Swanage Motor Road and Ferry Company it was the “unexpected fracture of one of the main drive shafts” that caused the problem. A company statement said: “The shaft and drive wheel are joined by a hydraulic coupling. As the coupling is a specialist part, we are waiting for the removal kit, which is being flown from Sweden in order to try and separate the coupling. As a precaution we have had the other drive shaft tested and, although no cracks have been detected, the condition is such that we have taken the decision to replace it as well and work has commenced to do this.

“As already mentioned, the coupling is a specialist component, which is manufactured to order and, unfortunately, this is on a very long lead time.”