THE Sandbanks Ferry service will be withdrawn from next week until further notice.

Operators of the service between Studland and Poole the Sandbanks Ferry Company has announced it will be suspending its operation from Tuesday, April 21.

A statement from the firm said there has been a "significant reduction" in ferry passenger numbers since the government-directed 'lockdown' in the current coronavirus pandemic.

Following the announcement that this would be extended for at least a further three weeks, the company said it was no longer "economically or environmentally viable" to run the ferry during the health crisis.

The final crossing will be the 7.10pm from Studland on Monday, April 20.

Mike Kean, managing director of the Sandbanks Ferry Company, said: “It is with great sadness that we have had to make the decision to withdraw the ferry service.

"We have been tirelessly exploring all avenues over recent weeks to try to secure financial support from central Government through this unprecedented time, but this has not been forthcoming, and we have had to make the very difficult decision today to withdraw the service.

"We were prepared to continue to operate at a financial loss to support key workers, but without greater support, this is no longer possible.

“While I know this will be difficult for the small number of key workers that are still using the service to get to work, I hope they will understand why this decision has been taken. We would like to thank them, and Dorset Council, for their support and understanding through this difficult time.

“I would also like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to our staff who have worked fearlessly over the last month in jobs that by their nature involve close contact with colleagues and customers alike.”

While the ferry is out of service, maintenance work will be carried out that where possible is intended to reduce the amount of time needed for the ferry refit later this year in November.

Timings on the return of the ferry service will be provided in due course, the company said.

Mr Kean added: “We will continue to closely monitor the current situation and look at ways to return the ferry to service as soon as possible, when we look forward to welcoming our passengers back once it is safe for them and our staff to do so.”