THE chairman of Langstone Harbour Board has hit back at claims it is not treating the Hayling Ferry company fairly.
Tina Edwards, the ferry’s owner, published an open letter criticising the ‘extortionate’ fees charged by the board to use its pontoons on the Hayling and Eastney sides of the harbour.
But Councillor Jackie Branson, chairman of the harbour board, said it has done all it can to try and resolve the ongoing issues with the company.
And she said if it wasn’t for the ferry it wouldn’t keep the large pontoons because the harbour board does not need them.
Hampshire County Council and, until last year, Portsmouth City Council split the £20,000 annual fees between them.
The county council has also stumped up a further £25,000 for pontoon repairs a year since 2012.
But, because the city council funding was withdrawn, the ferry company is £10,000 short of its fees – meaning it is only allowed to use the pontoons until March.
In the letter, Ms Edwards said: ‘The subsidies have been vital for the public transport service to continue this long and should HCC (Hampshire County Council) now has to cut its subsidy, there is no doubt we would probably cease to exist.
‘That is unless there is a review of the fees and a total turn around by LHB (the harbour). This is what we are calling for.’
Ms Edwards said the service was vital for commuters, schoolchildren and tourists going in both directions.
And she questioned why it had taken the board so long to carry out repairs.
Cllr Branson said the work on the Hayling pontoon took place over Christmas, once the funding was in the bank.
She added: ‘The harbour board arranged a meeting between an engineer, the harbour manager and the ferry company to talk about the pontoon situation and no one from the ferry company turned up.
‘Since then we have asked them to come in at least three times but they ignored our invitations. We are happy to talk about it.’
The ferry has been out of action since December for maintenance works. A replacement ferry should be on the water from today.