NEWS that the Sandbanks Ferry will be out of action until October has been greeted with a barrage of criticism from residents, businesses and visitors.

The troubled Bournemouth-Swanage Motor Road and Ferry Company revealed the latest setback in a statement released yesterday.

Now Studland parish council is calling on the company to organise alternative crossings.

Ferry services were withdrawn on July 12 with users told urgent repairs were needed and that the ferry would not operate until August 12.

But now the company has delivered the blow that it will not operate until the autumn, meaning people will have to drive 25 miles instead.

Parish council vice-chairman Nick Boulter said residents are suffering during the busy school summer holiday due to traffic congestion, and he said businesses in the area are losing customers.

“We are obviously shocked about the latest delay but what really concerns us is that there is no alternative provision” he said.

“The parish council is requesting that a shuttle service is operated on the route, which could be served by buses on either side. It would be very simple to do

“We have already noticed that the beach empties earlier than usual because people have a long journey home and for people who live here the traffic in Wareham, Corfe and Sandford is a lot heavier.”

He added: “It is more than an inconvenience.”

Local residents have taken to social media with Sarah Brookes saying: “This is crazy - I rely on this for work” and Anna Waymouth adding: “It is time the contract for this journey was put up for tender.”

Visitor Ann Wright added: “We are holidaymakers but feel really sorry for the residents and visitors who are so badly affected.”

The ferry company statement said: “The Sandbanks Ferry was withdrawn from service on Friday July 12 following an unexpected fracture of one of the main drive shafts and is currently at a repair facility in Southampton.

“We are working very closely with the MCA (Marine & Coastguard Agency) and Lloyds Register of Shipping (our Class Surveyors for Insurers) to ensure all repairs are conducted to Class standards and specification.”

It says a broken shaft and drive wheel have been removed and that a specialist part has been ordered from Sweden.

It added: “We are in constant communication with the manufacturers to speed this process up, as well as researching alternatives. We do not anticipate being able to resume service until sometime in October. We hope to have a much clearer picture of the return to service date next week.”

The company apologised to customers. The announcement is the latest in a series of setbacks. The ferry was not working for three months in the winter and there were further problems in June.