THE Sandbanks Ferry was due to be tugged to dry dock this morning for its biennial repaint and refit.
Every other year ferry workers take the Bramble Bush Bay off its chains so it can be transported to Marchwood, Southampton, where it is taken out of the water for essential maintenance.
This year the ferry service suspension coincides with the start of a 15-week engineering scheme on the A35 Upton bypass and a ten-week project to replace a Blandford Road water main in Poole.
Lane restrictions were implemented along the A35 at Upton last night as the work got underway. Drivers were reporting delays of 40 minutes this morning at the Bakers Arms roundabout.
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Queues were already 25 minutes long at 8am and by 9am the road was at a standstill.
Michelle Luther, photographic assistant, said she was stuck on the A350 at Limberlost having taken half and hour to do what is normally a five minute journey from Lytchett Matravers.
"There are an awful lot of frustrated drivers and a lot of honking of horns," she said.
Motorists questioned the wisdom of starting major road works at the same time as the ferry refit.
One frustrated driver said: “It is incredible that organisations have not consulted each other over this – 36,000 cars normally use the Upton bypass, but with the Swanage ferry out too, how many more cars will want to use it?”
A Bournemouth-Swanage Motor Road & Ferry Company spokesman confirmed they had not been contacted by anyone about the A35 nor the Blandford Road engineering work.
“We didn’t know anything about the work on the Upton bypass,” she told the Daily Echo. “We do this refit every other year at the same time of year.”
Ferry workers say the refit must take place in the autumn, as summer is their busiest time and winter weather can make the five hour crossing to Southampton perilous.
The spokesman explained: “We will be taking the ferry off its chains on the Shell Bay side around 7am today."
"We are going to be overhauling the engines, the hydraulic system and the prows – the bits that go up and down at each end.
“The ferry will also be painted, along with lots of other minor jobs.”
The work is scheduled to take up to five weeks.