TRAFFIC chaos could put thousands of people off visiting Studland and Purbeck due to the withdrawal of the Sandbanks Ferry for most of the summer, it has been claimed.

Businesses will suffer and residents will be forced to spend hours getting to work and back every day according to Studland parish council vice chairman Nick Boulter.

Now he has called for more investment in the ferry and has urged the operators to be more open with the public.

The Bournemouth-Swanage Motor Road and Ferry Company has announced the service will be out of action until at least August 12.

It will be towed to Southampton for "costly" repairs.

The announcement comes just days before the start of the school summer holiday.

Hundreds of thousands of tourists descend on Dorset throughout the summer holiday, many heading for popular spots such as Sandbanks and Purbeck.

The withdrawal of the service is the latest in a series of problems.

The ferry was not working for three months in the winter and there were further problems in June.

Mr Boulter told the Daily Echo: "We are very disappointed that the ferry is out of action again. It has a major impact on people coming here on holiday or for day trips but also for the local businesses.

"It has a very serious knock-on effect - it is a nightmare for people trying to get here so sometime they just don't come."

When the ferry is not operating, motorists face a 25-mile trip by road via Poole and Wareham.

Mr Boulter added: "We are concerned as to whether he company is investing adequately in the ferry. They are also very poor at communication. They make no effort to reach out to the public and explain what is actually happening."

The ferry was withdrawn on Friday and the operators simply said there would be a further announcement yesterday.

It said: ""The Sandbanks Ferry was withdrawn from service on Friday July 12 following a fracture of one of the main drive shafts.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."