POOLE’S favourite cross Channel ferry is undergoing repainting and cleaning in Dunkirk before sailing back into port on March 18.

The Barfleur is being stripped of its temporary DFDS branding as Brittany Ferries prepares the ship to resume its year round Cherbourg-Poole route.

“We’re looking forward to welcoming the Barfleur back to Poole on March 18,” said Mike Bevens, group passenger commercial director for Brittany Ferries.

“The new timings will be perfect for day trippers as well as those travelling beyond Cherbourg and we sincerely hope that we can count on the support of the Dorset community to make good use of this link with France to help us sustain it long term.

“The signs are good with bookings to France in 2013 looking strong,” he added.

Fears were raised last year that the ferry might never return to Poole, as it embarked on a six month charter with DFDS Seaways on the Dover-Calais route.

The year-round Poole service was axed in 2010 after running for 17 years, for being uneconomic, but returned for the summer of 2011.

Now it is hoped the ferry, which will have daily morning sailings to France, returning in the evening, is back for good.

Bruce Grant-Braham, chairman of Poole Tourism Partnership, said: “This can’t but be great news for everyone who has an affection for the Barfleur and an affection for taking that route to France.”

He added: “Hopefully it will continue in perpetuity – for as long as the Barfleur is serviceable.”

Welcoming the return of the ferry, Poole resident Bob Grieve said: “I for one am hoping to be on the first sailing as I was when the Barfleur first came to Poole. Once again great news, well done Brittany Ferries.”

Cherbourg is becoming increasingly attractive as a gateway to France thanks to the newly completed dual-carriageway all the way down the Cotentin Peninsular and the town has a new retail centre, featuring 50 shops and a hypermarket.