SANDBANKS Ferry Company boss Mike Kean has been questioned during the inquiry into the proposed toll increases for the Poole Harbour crossing.

Mr Kean, speaking at the online Planning Inspectorate inquiry called in response to the ticket hike proposals, argued the price increases are necessary to fund a replacement vessel, and to ensure investors get a reasonable return.

Last month the Sandbanks Ferry Company submitted a revised toll increase proposal to the Planning Inspectorate after last minute feedback from local councils.

Following the submission of a toll increase application by the company in February of 2020, a consortium of local councils – Dorset, BCP and Swanage Town – submitted a counter-proposal in November.

This was on the eve of the originally timetabled inquiry, which was subsequently adjourned until this week.

The ferry company says its revised proposal, which represents an initial increase of just 50p for cars in 2021, seeks to address a number of ‘issues with the consortium’s proposal.’ Under these latest proposals, after the initial 2021 single ticket rise of 50p, prices would rise by small annual increases over 12 years. The ferry firm says it would take six years for car tolls to reach £5.50 – a figure proposed by the consortium for introduction this year.

At this week's inquiry Mr Kean was asked by Studland resident Andrew Parsons, if he did not consider the existing toll of £4.50 per car was “plenty high enough for a 350-metre crossing.”

Mr Kean answered: “It might well be enough for such a crossing but unfortunately it is not enough to build up a fund for a suitable replacement vessel, nor give the investors a reasonable return.”

It was also revealed the cost of the enquiry to the ferry company was around £70,000.

Mr Kean said: “£70,000 divided by an average of each car paying £4, that’s 17,500 vehicle crossings that have to made just to cover the public enquiry.”

Earlier he said: “We are attempting to put the company in a fair financial position so it can pay its daily running costs, provide for capital replacement items and pay a reasonable return on the investment in the undertaking. At the moment it is unable to do the latter item at all, and struggling to do the second item.”