SANDBANKS Ferry will be out of action until at least August 12.

Serious mechanical problems will see the ferry towed to Southampton for repairs.

The withdrawal of the service comes just days before the busy school summer holiday and is certain to lead to traffic chaos.

In a statement, operators said: "The Sandbanks Ferry was withdrawn from service on Friday July 12 following a fracture of one of the main drive shafts. The Ferry has two independent drive systems which consists of diesel engines driving a hydraulic pump.

"This provides the hydraulic pressure to turn a hydraulic motor which is connected to the drive wheel via a drive shaft. It is one of these drive shafts which has broken. In order to remove the drive wheel to change the broken shaft requires specialist repairers.

"In order to speed up the whole repair process we have taken the costly decision to have the ferry towed to a suitably equipped repair facility in Southampton to have the work undertaken.

"It is difficult to put a timescale on how long this work will take, considering the shaft must be specially made, but we estimate that we will be out of service until at least August 12. 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 full service as soon as possible."