Bad weather is being blamed for a loss of more than £3,100 by Littlehampton’s re-introduced ferry service in 2012.
But despite the deficit, Littlehampton Town Council and its operator Action Boat are keen to continue the ferry’s two-year trial next year, although with changes it’s hoped will make the service profitable in 2013.
Thursday (December 6) the town council’s community resources committee were asked to agree funding of £3,000 over the two years to offset some of Action Boat’s losses, which amounted to £3,102 this year.
Passengers are also set to pay more for crossing the River Arun, with a proposal that the single fare should rise from £1 to £1.50p.
Town clerk Peter Herbert says in a report to the committee that, from the experience gained during the 2012 operating season, several changes need to be made to enable the ferry to continue and, hopefully, make a profit next year.
These include more limited operating days, which in 2013 will start with the Easter holidays, from March 29 to April 14, and a daily service, followed by weekends and bank holidays only from April 15 to May 24, and then every day from May 25 to September 1.
The ferry will run at weekends only, from September 2 to October 25, and daily over the half-term holiday, October 26 to November 3.
A new regular timetable for the ferry will be introduced next year, too. From 10am-1.30pm and 2.30-5pm, it will run at half-hour intervals. A half-hour harbour tour will be offered at 2pm, for a charge of £5. Mr Herbert’s report says Action Boat struggled to find qualified crew for the ferry at £50 a day and had suggested the skipper’s pay should be increased to £70 each day, which would be partially offset by the service not running during the week when there were very few passengers, in the spring and autumn.
It’s clear that the ferry is most popular with visitors, rather than residents, adds Mr Herbert. “The operator has confirmed that the vast majority of passengers who use the ferry are visitors to Littlehampton and not local residents. They are only aware of two local customers who use the ferry on a regular basis.
“For this reason it is recommended that any additional funding required could come from tourism initiatives.”