THE public inquiry into proposed toll increases on the Sandbanks Ferry, which is currently out of action due to “mechanical issues”, is scheduled to start next week.

An independent inspector has been appointed to hold the inquiry by the Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling, after ferry operator Bournemouth-Swanage Motor Road and Ferry Company submitted an application to raise fares earlier this year.

The firm says the price rise is necessary to meet increased running and maintenance costs and potentially the future cost of a replacement ferry.

On Friday, the ferry company released a statement explaining the current service suspension, which is expected to resume operation later this week.

This read: “We withdrew the ferry from service on Wednesday, September 12, morning when we suffered a main hydraulic drive motor failure.

“This was replaced with a new one within 10 hours, but unfortunately has then been succeeded by a succession of mechanical issues, none of which could have been predicted, some of which are extremely time consuming and costly to address."

When approached for further comment a ferry employee said staff were working 14-hour days in a bid to repair the vessel and would not have time to comment further.

The statement says: "We sincerely apologise to all our valued customers for this inconvenience, but can only assure you that we are working as hard as we can to return the ferry to service as soon as possible."

If the ferry is restored to use later as planned it will only be for a few weeks.

The company is planning a full refit to start on Monday, October 29, and last for four to six weeks.

The public inquiry will take place at 10am on Tuesday, September 25, and Wednesday, September 26, at Studland Village Hall.

If the fare changes are approved the foot passenger and cycle charge would double to £2, with car tolls increasing from £4.30 to £6, and tolls for HGVs and buses increasing from £8.60 to £12.

Members of Purbeck District Council voted unanimously to object to the proposed increases, while local parish council has also registered its anger at the planned price hike.